Telling It Like It Is vs. Hype

There is a lot of hype about moving to Panama.

Yes, Panama is a great country for expats and retirees, depending on where you are coming from and what you are seeking.  But it’s not for everyone.  How do you know if it is right for you?  Well you have to invest the time, effort, and money in studying, reading everything you can get your hands on but taking it all with a grain of salt, and talking to as many people as possible seeking out folks who will tell it like it is and give you the straight scoop.

That’s what I try to do on this blog and in my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA.  First, it’s our experience.  Talk to a dozen different retirees and/or expats living in Panama and you will likely get a dozen different stories.  Some of those who “package” Panama and make a living off selling the expat lifestyle have a tendency to gloss over some of the realities in order to paint a rosy picture.  Panama hasn’t been perfect for us, but it has been fantastic.  Nikki and I are both mature enough to realize that there is no “perfect” place, but for us Panama, with all of its frustrations, has been wonderful.

When I get comments on Amazon, like this from Keith Dick, I’m delighted!

“No rose-colored glasses here – Panama is not for everyone. If you’ve never lived outside the US before, particularly in a developing country like Panama – don’t even think about making a move without thorough research. Richard’s book is one of the best. Extremely valuable advice – take it to heart!”

Or this from Daniel Bridges …

“An outstanding, insightful book about the author’s experiences in Panama. It is a very sobering look at his and his family’s experiences, both the good and the not so good. The reader can tell they’ve landed in their paradise. My wife and I are considering relocating to Panama and we’re using Richards book as one of our primary sources of information for an anticipated visit to the country next year. Because Richard does not sugar coat life in Panama, rather he tells it like it is, we feel like we have a more realistic expectation of what life is like in Panama. He most definitely has us studying up on the many aspects to be considered.”

Or this from Dorothy …

“No bunnies and rainbows here, both sides of the coin are exposed. Like any country, Panama has it’s issues and beauty and Richard gives insight to the reader/expat on both so we don’t arrive and end up shocked to find bugs in our paradise. Good job.”

I’m even happy when I get a comment like this one from Ida Freer, a writer who actually helped edit the book …

“You provide a lot of useful information. Overall it led me to decide against Panama, except maybe as a tourist for a month or two. Too bad! I had high hopes.”

Just think, I saved Ida several hundred thousand dollars plus a whole lot of hassle! What if she had moved to Panama and THEN discovered it wasn’t for her?

So in that vein, I want to respond to this comment from Ophelia Robinson …

I am so confused??? I just happened across this blog and I was really shocked to hear that the pensionada program is NOT what I thought it to be. I have been dreaming about relocating to Panama and primarily because of all the positive things I have read via Kathleen Pedicore’s (excuse misspelled last name) newsletters. This is the first time I have read that the Pesionada program may not be all that Kathleen taut it to be. I’m sure you know about the expensive seminars she regularly holds around the country, and even in some of the Latin American countries. I have planned on going to at least one of them, but now I am not sure whether I would be wasting my money. Do you think it is best that I just visit Panama and see for myself what it is like, then schedule one of the these seminars with Kathleen afterwards if I am still interested? After all, she brings in all the experts—in banking, attorneys, relocation, currency, language, those that actually live or who have lived there, etc., etc., etc…. Supposedly, she introduces you to all of the experts who can answer all the questions you have about relocating…what do you think???

First, about Panama’s much-touted Pensionado program.

“Pensionado” refers to a retired person living on a pension. There are many retired folks in Panama, Panamanians, who live as Panamanians on pensions of $150-300 a month. With the inflation in Panama it is a struggle, but they do it. However they have a lifestyle that’s considerably different than most expats would appreciate. The Pensionado discount program was supposedly created to benefit these folks, although I doubt that those at the lower end stay in fancy hotels or take international flights. Panama has generously extended this concept to foreigners who have pensions and want to move to Panama.

The Pensionado visa is a very attractive option for expats who don’t want to work or expect to work in Panama.

I think it is important to realize that the Pensionado discount program was created for Panamanian retirees, not for gringos, but Panama has generously extended these benefits to expats. I sometimes encounter expats who think that the whole world revolves around them, or at least it should, and the Pensionado program was created for them and it is their right. The Pensionado discounts are a wonderful thing, particularly when it comes to drugs, and sometimes restaurants. Hotels like to play games with the discounts, often setting up an artificial “rack” rate (which nobody pays) and then taking the discount off the rack rate. Of course hotels have always done this all over the world. Whether the airline discount helps you or not depends on your age. If you are 65 the airline senior discount, when offered, is the same as the Pensionado discount. If you are under 65 and are a Panamanian resident you can get the airline senior rate so its a good deal for you. In restaurants I used the Pensionado discount judiciously. If it’s a local, small, typical Panamanian restaurant, often family run, with fair prices, I’d never ask for the discount. If it’s a large, expensive restaurant, then I’ll ask for the discount. If I see they’ve jacked up the prices anticipating folks using the discount, I’ll ask for it. Interestingly many of the gringo-owned and operated restaurants flout the law by listing prices “with the discount already included” or “offering the discount to everyone.”

Yes, the banks often have two lines and a special line for Pensionados. If there is a line of ordinary, working Panamanians, I’m not going to go stand in the Pensionado line where there may not be anyone. Why? Just good manners and realizing I’m a guest. But if there are two lines, each with a good number of folks, and the Pensionado line has Panamanian retirees in it already, I’ll go stand in the Pensionado line. OK, it’s me. I know some gringos who take the attitude, “I’m here. I’m entitled. I deserve it.” Different folks, different strokes.

OK, now Kathleen Peddicord, Live And Invest Overseas …

I don’t know Kathleen, have never met her but I’d like to since I am familiar with her news releases and admire her advertising and promotional efforts. As I understand it, she was much of the original force behind International Living before leaving and launching her own brand, Live and Invest Overseas. I’ve never been to her seminars or those of International Living. I suspect that Kathleen would be the first to tell you that she does not “answer all the questions you have about relocating” nor does International Living or Jackie Lange’s Panama Relocation Tours. In my opinion there is nothing better than getting out and into the real Panama and experiencing and seeing for yourself what life here is all about. You can’t experience that in a fancy hotel room in Panama City. These companies are in the business of selling Panama. And that’s OK, as long as you realize what it is. We know many folks who’ve ended up in Panama because of International Living and are delighted to be here. 37% of the folks who’ve taken Jackie Lange’s Panama Relocation Tours over the past four years are already living in Panama.

So here’s my advice …

1. Get my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA. Read it. I’ll show you how to decide what it is you’re looking for and how to evaluate and compare different countries. I don’t sugar coat it. Panama is not for everyone, but it may be the perfect place for you.

2. Scour the Internet and get all the information you can, but take what you read with a grain of salt. Sort through and try to separate hype from fact. Start following the various Internet boards that gringos in Panama post on. You’ll find almost as many opinions about everything as there are expats in Panama. No one, including me, has a lock on everything!

3. Carefully study the offerings and promises of the companies offering tours and seminars. Study the recommendations. Search out the company names on line and see what folks have to say. Weigh the cost and benefits. Anyone who promises to tell you “everything you need to know” is clearly blowing smoke.  You want to meet as many expats along the way as possible and have opportunity to learn from them and listen to their unfiltered comments.  Tour organizers tend to feature expats whose stories are in tune with the story the tour company is trying to tell.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Some tours are built around selling one thing or another, which is not always made clear up front.  There are real estate tours, carefully designed to allow time for you to see only the developments and properties where they’re getting a commission.  For those of my readers who’ve taken any of these tours, I’d welcome your comments and recommendations for others.

Avoid ones where you are just going to sit and listen.  You need to have your boots on the ground.  If you’re unfamiliar with a place, these may be the way to get started and feel comfortable exploring on your own. Whatever seminar or tour you choose, come early to experience and explore Panama City doing some of the tourist things like seeing the Canal or taking the Hop On Hop Off bus. And set up your return flight so you have time, a week if possible, to visit and explore in depth areas that you think might be possibilities for you. In Panama we pretty much have everything in a tiny country. Big city life, small town living, or life in the country. Mountains or beaches Lowland hot or mountain cool.

4. Once you go back home and sort through your experiences and impressions plan to come back to Panama for an extended stay of several weeks to explore further both as a tourist but also as someone considering living here.  Again talk to as many expats as possible.  You are the visitor so take the initiative: “Pardon me, we’re just visiting here and thinking of maybe moving to Panama.  It sounds like you’ve been here a while.  Can I buy you another cup of coffee (or drink!) and ask you a few questions?”   Most expats are going to be happy to share.

5. If you then still are excited about an expat lifestyle in Panama, arrange to come down for 3 to 6 months, rent a place, and actually experience day-to-day life in the area you like best.

Then, when you are convinced this is the right move, pack up and move here, either renting or buying the home of your dreams.

 

157 New Cars Every Day in Panama City

If you think traffic in Panama City is a zoo now, just you wait.  A part of the price of a booming economy is more cars and more traffic.

If you are a Panama City driver facing increasing frustration as the traffic jams worsen, as the city rushes towards First World Status with round the year clogged roadways and rush hour gridlock, learn to hold your breath. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, with experts predicting a long haul of at least a decade before there is an adequate public transit system, and the culture changes from showing off the latest SUV acquisition to actually sharing the system with those who don’t own a car.

Meanwhile, according to figures provided by Panama’s Automobile Dealers Association (ADAP), the path to total gridlock is being fueled with ever increasing vehicle sales. Between January and June this year sales increased by 5.6% compared to the same period in 2013. If is compared with 2012, the increase was 21%; with 2011, 28%; and 2010, 61.6%.

In terms of annual sales in just three years the segment grew by almost 50%. 37,458 vehicles sold in 2010 rose to 56,147 in 2013.

The average monthly vehicle sales figure in 2013 was 4679. So far in 2014 the monthly average is 4,730, putting sales on the road 60,000 thousand shiny new road blockers by year end

This, according to economist Raul Moreira, goes hand in hand with sustained economic growth that the country has registered in the last seven years.

“There is a situation of economic welfare for a large sector of the population, and that translates into a higher level of purchase, in this case cars,” he told La Prensa.

In the first six months of the year, 28,381 new cars have been added to the streets of the capital city. With average monthly sales of 4,730 vehicles, that means 157 new cars appearing on the streets every day,helping to guarantee rush our crawls, late appointments and the other joys shard by major cities across the world.
In the race to get rubber on the road, Toyota, 7,003 overtook Hyundai, 4,984 as the preferred purchase in the first six months.

Toyota sales increased 24% compared to 2013; Hyundai , fell by 13%.
Kia, came in third with 4,383 a 25% jump over last year’s3,509
Nissan and Suzuki were the other two brands that lost customers. The first sold 13% less, and the second 8%.

Lack of urban planning, and parking facilities add to the traffic chaos.

Urban planner Alvaro Uribe says it is “an inherited problem of an urban structure based on isolated sets of housing, which only work with a car.”

He warns that the Panama city model is obsolete and needs new road easements and a planned network of streets to give “alternative access to everywhere via different routes,” plus extended public transit reaching hard to get-to places. [LA PRENSA PANAMA]

Of course THAT is Panama City. It’s not like that everywhere in Panama, although even now in Boquete you have to often look for a parking space in town. But there are many places in Panama outside Panama City where the only traffic jam you might encounter looks like this …

cropped-panama-traffic-jam.jpg

Check Your Expectations

“Soup” Campbell looks just like you’d expect any Alaskan frontiersman to look, only he now lives in Volcan, Panama.  Volcan is on the opposite side of Volcan Baru from Boquete.  Soup gave up winters in the North Pole [Really!  It's a little town north of Fairbanks, Alaska just in case you thought there was no place colder in the US than Fairbanks.] to move to Panama and he and his wife love it!  Soup’s advice to folks considering moving to Panama is “Check your expectations at the border.”   This is not the US, UK, Canada or wherever else you presently call home.  This is particularly true when it comes to the legal system and the way in which it operates in Panama.

This is often a rude awakening to folks who come from countries where the legal system is based on English common law and case precedent.  That is why when I updated my book, THE NEW ESCAPE TO PANAMA: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA, I included a new chapter called “The Devil You Know.”  Many of us like to grouse around about the inequities of the legal systems in our home countries, but sometimes “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”

It would be hard to top this anywhere in the world …  How The Brawl Over A Florida Millionaire’s Will Taints Panama’s Image: How Panama Cut Poor Kids Out Of A Florida Millionaire’s Will.  You gotta read it and you will be shaking your head!  Anyone in “the industry” looking for a series to pitch which would be better than “House of Cards”?  Take a look!

And a special word of thanks to Squirrelmom for this great review of THE NEW ESCAPE TO PANAMA: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA …

Once again, Richard, thank you for your sage advice. i read your book two years ago (need to get the new one!) and came to Panama to check it our ourselves. We have been to Panama twice and spent extended time there actually house sitting. We love Boquete and there was much about Panama we liked but other than Panama City (which was not much to our liking), we decide we were too young to settle down there for now. We might revisit it again in 5-10 years from now, though mindful that there will probably be major changes between now and then. But as you say only with ‘boots on the ground” and visiting actual areas and trying to “live” and not just be tourist for while, do you learn whether you really could and would live there. Until you try grocery shopping, getting parts for a car, doing laundry, getting your hair cut, trying to find good coffee (not a problem in Boquete or Panama City but a bit of a struggle elsewhere – at least for now), and visiting a doctor and a hospital for treatment (all things we did!) you really don’t know what it’s like. To all of your skeptics out there LISTEN TO RICHARD!

On The Road Again

If you’re thinking about moving or retiring abroad, nothing beats the first-hand experience of boots on the ground and actually experiencing the country. Sitting in a ballroom in an expensive Panama City hotel, or reading newsletters and publications of outfits who make their money spinning dreams, or hearing carefully prepped stories from expats, can’t come near the value of actually experiencing things for yourself and talking to real expats who share their unfiltered experiences of life in a foreign country.

Whenever I can I tag along on the Panama Relocation Tours to share first-hand some of the things I talk about in my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA. It’s fun to meet people from all over, to make knew friends and to share. This time my wife, Nikki, also came along.

Due to an acute water problem in one of the areas the tour usually visits, this time we went to Sante Fe, a VERY tiny and remote town about 1 hour 45 minutes by bus from the Pan American Highway and major shopping and services. I had never been to this town and was very curious since International Living and some of the other businesses that promote expat living have hyped this town. In November of last year International Living called it one of “the top five places to live in Panama.” International Living has continually pushed Sante Fe and dubbed it “Panama’s Most Beautiful Town” and also anointed it one of “the five best-value retirement destinations outside the U.S.” saying “The secluded getaway of Santa Fe de Veraguas, 200 miles from Panama City, Panama also made it into the top five. The low-cost of accommodation, food and high-end health care meant its budget for a retired couple was estimated at $800 per month.”

So of course I was interested! Although sometimes compared to Boquete, other than being in the mountains … at a much lower and warmer elevation … Boquete it is not. Undeniably Sante Fe is beautiful. But there isn’t much of a “town” that could be considered “Panama’s Most Beautiful Town”. It’s about 1 hour 45 minutes from the Pan American Highway and even farther to Santiago which would be the nearest place for a hospital, physicians, grocery shopping, etc. Sure, you can buy a very simple, inexpensive style Panamanian house for $45,000 if you looked hard enough, but a gringo family of two living on $800 a month … I don’t think so. Sure, of course you COULD do so … but would you WANT to?

Kathleen Peddicord [Live and Invest Overseas] is a little bit more realistic … “A couple could retire to Santa Fe, for example, in the highlands of Panama, on as little as $1,000 per month.” Of course she also says, “You could rent a house in Santa Fe for just $200 a month and live on a budget of $800 a month or less. One important reason why you don’t need much money to live in Santa Fe is because there’s not much in Santa Fe to spend your money on. Life here could best be described as back to basics, simple, and safe.” $800 … $1,000?  But there not being much in Sante Fe to spend your money on is absolutely accurate.

It makes great copy … and great dreaming material!

I loved Sante Fe but it’s not as cool as I like and it’s too far … from everything. The expat community here numbers around 50 people that, depending on what you want, can be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage.

I’m not particularly picking on Sante Fe, International Living, or Kathleen Peddicord, but I do want to make the point that you shouldn’t set your dreams based only on what you read. You need to actually visit the places you read about, have a boots on the ground experience, and talk to as many real expats as possible.

Expat living can be wonderful as it has been for us. If you’re just looking for cheap there are many places in Panama and the rest of the world where you can find cheap. But is that what you really want? If cheap is all you can afford, fine. But I sometimes see people who can certainly afford a better quality of life and all they are concerned about is cheap, cheap, cheap. If you’re considering an expat life style for retiring, remember, you’ve worked all your life for this. Why not enjoy it? Sure, you may be able to live cheaper in Panama, depending on where you are coming from, but, more importantly you can live BETTER for less.

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Cruise Ships to Panama Up and New Hope for Colon

According to the Panama Tourism Authority, cruise ship arrivals in Panama increased 5.7% in the first five months of the year with 215,581 cruise passenger tourists, generating $27 million in revenue.  An average of 45,000 monthly cruise passengers disembarked at the port at the edge of the city of Colon and in the port in Amador on the Pacific entrance to the Canal. [Ships on the Pacific side anchor out and tender guests into Amador, sometimes called "Fuerte Amador" by the cruise lines.]

Unfortunately, cruise passengers calling in Colon have to be warned that neither the city, nor the area around the two cruise terminals [Colon 2000 and Home Port] are safe areas for tourists.  This is too bad because there are some beautiful old buildings in Colon, some dating back to the French era of attempting to build a canal.

One of the first things Panama’s new President,Juan Carlos Varela, did after his inauguration was to helicopter Colón, where in front of thousands of people he promised to improve the economy of Colon. One of the promises that drew the most attention was the idea to transform the entire city of Colon into a free trade zone.

Marissa Krienert, executive director of the Panama Freedom Foundation, told PanAm Post she believes this is very good news, because it will bring prosperity to a city that for decades has suffered severe neglect, insecurity, and unemployment.

“Turning Colón into a free trade zone will allow the country to take full advantage of its resources to attract more foreign investment into a legally autonomous jurisdiction. This autonomy will allow for considerable fiscal flexibility, and will directly benefit the people of Colón, generating high-quality, well-paying jobs, along with deeper specialization of the labor force and enhanced technology transfers,” said Krienert.

Panama occupies the 71st place of 177 countries in the latest edition of the Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation, and is classified as a moderately free economy. According to this index, its economy is less free than that of Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, but freer than those of Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela. [PANAM POST]

 

Varela in Colon with one of those architectural gems in the background.

Brit View: Panama is Unrivalled

By Dr Ian Collard, British Ambassador to Panama

In recent years, while Europe has been struggling with the impact of an economic downturn, the economies of Latin America have bucked global trends and exceeded expectations.

High rates of economic growth, substantial infrastructure development and the emergence of the Pacific Alliance are evidence of Latin America’s new role in a changing world economy.

Panama – tagged by many as the Central American Tiger – has led the region’s economic performance for the last decade, with an extraordinary annual growth rate averaging around 8%.

Panama is the region’s emerging logistics hub with an unrivalled distribution network and connectivity, representing an easy and business-friendly entry point into wider regional markets.

With World Economic Forum indicators ranking Panama fourth in the world for the quality of its port facilities, first in Latin America for its air transport facilities, and first in the western hemisphere for the availability of its financial services, it is difficult to argue against its self-declared moniker as a gateway to the Americas.

Panama also has the largest public infrastructure programme in Central America. Mega projects include the expansion of the Panama Canal, development of Panama City’s Metro system, and development over several years of new logistics and port facilities.

Construction of an additional container port on the Pacific coast, a logistics park at the Pacific end of the Canal, container-on-barge services across the Canal, and a LNG bunkering station are some of the additional projects mooted.

It is little wonder that UKTI has added such projects to its list of global High Value Opportunities for British businesses.

Many of these endeavours will strengthen Panama’s logistics capacity, reinforcing its important geostrategic position in world trade and regional distribution, and enhancing its offer as a one-stop location for value-adding services.

Panama has a key role facilitating trade across the region, connecting north and south, providing a natural hub for commerce, and acting as a magnet for investment. Panama’s banking centre is home to 65 Latin American institutions, competing with Miami to be the regional financial centre of the Americas.

More than 100 multinational companies have established their regional and logistical headquarters in Panama, taking advantage of its communications, maritime and air links, and the tax incentives on offer.

In Colon, Panama has the second largest free trade zone in the world after Hong Kong, providing a home to more than 2,500 companies and handling more than $30bn in imports and re-exports from all corners of the world each year. As an increasingly popular regional distribution base, Panama has also become the shopping capital of the region for tourists and business visitors. In its highly diversified economy, retail accounted for as much as 14% of GDP in 2012.

The indicators are already positive. With Panama’s ambition to join forces with the other Pacific

Alliance countries, Panama’s economic and commercial future looks even brighter.

The signing of a Free Trade Agreement with Mexico earlier this year was the last technical hurdle to Alliance membership. As a bloc, Alliance countries represent the second largest user of the Panama Canal, reinforcing the importance of Panama at the centre of the group’s trade strategy with Europe, the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the United States.

 

Panama is booming and it is open for business. I am confident that this country and the wider region will continue to grow, and will provide exciting new opportunities for UK businesses. I encourage you to read on and discover more about this fascinating and vibrant region.  [GlobalTrader]

Dear Richard

Homework First

Hi, I am a retired American considering moving to Panama with my partner who is near retiring. We have read that the best thing to do is to rent for a while until you get your bearings, then buy if that is what you want. I was reading your blog and saw this property, it looks like paradise to us. We are both ‘Senior Citizen’ eligible, have 3 dogs and are looking for a good place to live, preferably a bit larger than this house. However this place looks perfect to get the feel of Panama. Is it still available? We have a house in the US to sell, but we can do that from Panama! Any information you can give us about the transition, the life style there, and how to manage living there would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Pat and Rob

Pat, FIRST, BUY MY BOOK! You are asking VERY basic questions, stuff you need to know, think about, and talk about BEFORE even considering moving to Panama. I can’t tell you the people I meet who move down here, on what I would consider a whim. They’re tired of snow. God spoke to them. [I have nothing against discussing this with God, in fact I recommend it, but, remember, God gave you a mind with which to think, explore, and reason. The Biblical parallel of the house built on sand ... God saying, "Do your due diligence! Do your homework! Count the cost! Go in with eyes wide open!"] They have problems in their relationship, or with themselves, and think changing countries will make everything right! They are Republicans who think the US is going to hell because of the Democrats, or vice versa, Democrats who are sure the Republicans are destroying the Union. People come down here without a clue!

So start with my book. The Panama Relocation Tour is the second thing you need to do. Yes, you’ll spend a few thousand dollars, but do you have any idea how many tens and hundreds of thousands you can spend before discovering Panama is not for you. It’s not for everyone! It’s been great for us and a whole lot of folks. How do you know? Doing the research, and a boots-on-the ground tour, like Panama Relocation Tours, and not just a seminar sitting on your butt in a fancy hotel room in Panama City, is a good way to start.

Now, our little casita, three dogs are fine (which of course is another area you need to research: bringing your animals to Panama) is rented right now until October 1st, but then it’s available. It’s small, but most folks have used it as a base while shopping for a permanent place to rent or buy.

If you want to “experience” Boquete, stay in Boquete, not David

Good evening Richard. My name is Linda, and we communicated some weeks back about my forthcoming trip to Panama. My gentleman friend, Mr. Robert and I expressed an interest in renting your casita beginning January 2015.
I shall arrive in David on July 17 at 7:35 a.m. How does one get from the David airport to my hotel in Boquete which is Hotel Alcala? I’ll stay at Hotel Alcala for five nights. Is the hotel in a safe area?
My objective is personally experience Boquete. Is it reasonable to rent a car for several days? Is it reasonable to think that I could get around the area by myself? I want to see your casita also. How far away is the closest beach? I would like to see some tourist ares as well as know some good restaurants.
Are there any nearby fitness centers as Mr. Ryan and myself do frequent the gym? I hope to meet you and your wife. I don”t regard Americans living abroad as unpatriotic in any regard. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely, Linda [Las Vegas]

Hi Linda! We will pass on July 17th in the airport since I’m flying to Panama City on the return of your flight to David. The casita is rented now, but is still available starting in January. I assume you’ve already read my book and are doing a lot of research. You can either rent a car at David Airport, almost all the rental agencies are there, or take a cab to your hotel. The only Hotel Alcala Hotel I know is in David, and I’m not sure why you would stay in David if your “objective is personally [to] experience Boquete.” Most of David is quite safe. but Boquete is certainly nicer and safer. David is not “tourist center.” There are two small gyms in Boquete … the one in San Francisco Plaza down from my house has nice machines, Zumba, free weights, etc. These are not what we called when I worked for 24 Hour Fitness “wet gyms.” No pools, showers or changing rooms. The closest beach is Las Olas about 45 minutes from David. Black sand but really dangerous with rip tides, etc. Boca Chica is about 1 hour from David, 1 hour 45 minutes from Boquete. The real nice, white sand, picture postcard beaches are on the islands. You hire a boat at the dock in Boca Chica, a sleepy, tiny, fishing town, to take you out to the islands and beaches. My favorite is Isla Bolanos. About $70 for the boat. Take a lunch since there are no facilities. There are four beaches, and probably one will be deserted. Like Vegas, where you live, “what happens on Isla Bolanos stays on Isla Bolanos!” Have fun! Regards, Richard

Salud!

Curiosity mostly, but is Panama an environment, where folks with any allergies like “Hay Fever” still suffer through seasonally or constantly in Panama; or does that more-less disappear in the tropics for typical N. American allergy sufferers? When I spent a 10 days VA time in Costa Rica 3 years ago, I had no problems there. I can always get through May and June’s up here by very early, keeping on a daily regiment of 24 hr. OTC product, at my age now. Is the environment too much different there?
If one chose the Pensionado route for Visa, in what practical time frame do you think is generally best to begin working with a local lawyer and gather a lot of the required documentation that can be done from the states?
Can/where are motorcycles and/or decent sized scooters available as light exploration transportation? New and used options readily available in any decent sized city or town in Panama? Realize could be dangerous mode there.
I anticipate living in the Panama interior, away from PC.
Thanks, & look forward to your wisdom on these points. Mike

Mike, I take a 24 hour over the counter allergy pill daily, and when my eyes itch never the less (as this time of year) I take it ever 12 hours. Works for me, but allergies are different. Regarding Pensionado, takes 2-3 months to get a temporary card, and around 10 months more to get permanent. Definitely start working NOW with a lawyer who specializes in immigration. Find out what you need, exactly, when you get it, scan and email to your lawyer who can check it over. Much, much easier to do before you leave wherever you are now. Lots of motorcycles, scooters not so many. There is even a guy in Boquete selling new tuk tuks! [Like everyone uses in India.]

Medical Evacuation Insurance

Medical evacuation insurance is an excellent point for anyone who travels. We have been members of a program called Medjet Assist for almost 10 years now. It covers you 24/7/365 anywhere you travel in the world you travel. It will bring you anywhere in the world for your care which is very different from the package plans offered in conjunction with cruises or trips that are time specific. Most of those will get you to the closes appropriate hospital and then you are on your own for getting home or wherever from there. It is worth looking into for anyone who is planning on traveling. Best of all it covers you 24/7/365 anywhere in the world. Check it out!!

Unfortunately they do NOT include medical evacuation from cruise ships.

GPS left on dashboard in the sun

Forwarded to me from a friend …

This is a good lesson to learn. I bet this also applies to Cell phones, tablets, digital cameras, and other devices that use lithium batteries.
You think this may be a reason why the US Postal Service will not ship electronic devices that contain lithium batteries any longer?

GPS was placed in its bracket in the windshield and left in the sun.
The battery overheated and exploded ! Look at the damage !

You may like to share with others. It may save someone!