People Hear What They Want to Believe

Several years ago University of Illinois psychology professor Dolores Albarracín, led the study, later published in Psychological Bulletin, the journal of the American Psychological Association, that analysed data from 91 studies involving nearly 8,000 participants, focused on seeking a definitive answer to a longstanding debate. “We wanted to see exactly across the board to what extent people are willing to seek out the truth versus just stay comfortable with what they know.” Or one might also say, “what they think they know.”

Not surprisingly the research found that people were in general twice as likely to select information that supported their own point of view as to consider an opposing idea, with two thirds going for supportive views as opposed to a third going the other way. Some people, particularly those with more close-minded personalities, were even more reluctant to expose themselves to differing perspectives, opting for information that corresponded to their views nearly three quarters of the time.

Sante Fe Panama beautiful but ... Panama Relocation TourIt is my opinion that many times people are so anxious to find the “paradise” that they believe Panama to be, that they accept only what they want to hear, what confirms their existing beliefs. Now I am all for Panama as “paradise,” after all it’s been our experience, and I wrote the book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA. But … BIG BUT HERE … some of the organizations who promote expat living in Panama selectively offer information that glosses over the realities of life in Panama. And of course they do a very profitable business.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I try to do is give the REAL story and encourage people to move ahead cautiously, checking out things as they really are, spending time actually in the real Panama, not just a fancy hotel room somewhere, with boots-on-the-ground. If you do that there is a good chance that your will decide moving to Panama is right for you, but you’ll know what you are getting into. We all know you take a big risk when you leap before you look, yet it amazes me how many people will pick up and move to another country, usually one that’s hyped as the latest, greatest place to retire, without doing their own due diligence. In the end they head back home embittered, frustrated and having lost lots of money in the process.

Those who do the research and carefully check things out are the ones who come to Panama, love it, and thrive on the adventure!

I didn’t say these things, but here’s what others have to say about THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE, and if you doubt it, just check out the comments on Amazon.

The Most Beautiful House in Boquete, Panama FOR SALE 12 A good honest outline of what Panama is Really like. I was very impressed with this book, very well written and very informative. Having lived in Boquete, Panama for almost 6 years, travelled around the country and worked here, I have never seen such an honest, complete and straightforward representation of what it is like to live here. Richard writes the truth about subjects that many won’t, and shows very little bias throughout the book. In all of his chapters explaining life, real estate, services, construction and retirement in Panama, he hits the nail on the head and isn’t afraid to outline the fact that Panama may not be for everybody.” Conner

“5.0 out of 5 stars worth every penny, Well written, and informative.” Big Al

“What a fantastic resource from someone who has been living in Panama and knows the eccentricities and nuance of the culture. Whether considering Panama or anywhere else to retire abroad, Richard provides a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Richard!!” khfitz6311

“Great Job Richard!“I could hardly put this book down, even though I’ve lived in Boquete for seven years. Richard tells it exactly like it is … how I wish this wonderful tool were available before we moved here. It would have saved a lot of frustration trying to figure it all out for ourselves. This is an awesome book for those thinking of retiring in Panama.” Kathy Donelson

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“5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for anyone contemplating a move to Panama – Richard once again “nails it” with his straight-shooting comments, 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!” AKD

“Great book! This book is like reading a letter from a good friend who answers the most important questions you would ask if you were thinking of moving to Panama. Like a good friend, he gives you honest answers.” Jubal Atencio

“Reading Richard’s book paralleled the thoughts we were processing trying to determine where to retire and if Panama is a viable option. His book answers the questions about affordability and the mind shift needed for a life outside the USA, and the sacrifices (really just tradeoff’s, good/bad) we’d need to make if we chose to live in Panama. I don’t think there’s anything he missed in his book! From obtaining a Visa, to moving with a pet, to finding the best for an Expat place to fit in and live in Panama. It’s a big book but a fast read. I couldn’t put it down. A must read if retirement in Central America is on your mind.” Margie Casey

“I have to say that what and how you laid out the details is outstanding. You covered the reality of pros and cons. It is by far the best book out there for folks that want to relocate to Panama. We will arrive in April and rent for a year or so.” John & Susan Pazera

018The New Escape to Paradise is an updating of one of the best books about moving to and living in Panama. Detrich has lived in Panama for a decade and he still thinks of it as paradise. The New Escape to Paradise is a pragmatic and thought-provoking guide if you seriously contemplate moving to a new land. After researching living in Central and South American for more than fifteen years, including some tourist visits, I thought that I knew a great deal of things. As it turns out, my impressions were superficial. If you have plans to live in Panama you certainly should be prepared with this book!” James Fletcher

“This is a comprehensive, boots on the ground book about what it is like to live in Panama. The only way to learn more is to come here and stay awhile. I can’t think of anything Richard didn’t cover.” Judy Sacco

“A must read: great book, especially helpful if you are considering moving or retiring to Panama. I loved all the insight to their experiences and can’t wait to experience the country myself.” Joan Egizili

“I gave this book 5 stars because it answers all the questions about living and retiring in Panama with the pros and cons.” Gillberto Smith

“Excellent. 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.” Daniel Bridges

“I enjoyed reading your book! It’s very illuminating and entertaining. You have an ability to communicate and have an enjoyable writing style.” Doug Tyler

“Richard really knows what he’s talking about. Down to earth, no sugar coating. The book lays out both the good and not so good of living in Panama. I highly recommend it.” Steve McVicar

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“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.” Ida Freer

The New Escape to Paradise is a must read for anyone thinking/dreaming about retiring to Panama. We’ve been researching for two years and will be retiring to Panama in six months. The information in this book is highly informative, current, and down to earth. Richard tells it like it is about Panama and retirement in Panama, and, I enjoyed reading about his life and his family.” Allison Guinn

“Part philosopher, part psychologist, part historian, part travel guide, and part economist, all describe Richard Detrich as he weaves his tale of life in Panama. He tells it ‘like it is’ without the hype. The New Escape to Paradise is a must read for anyone who is considering relocating to another country whether it’s Panama or somewhere else. Interactive exercises will give you insight into what you want out of your life and your next adventure.” Kristin Stillman

“Extremely helpful. 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.” Dorothy

“What a wealth of information. This is the perfect book to read if you are considering a move to Panama or just want to know all about Panama from an insider. After living in Panama for just a few months, this book addressed aspects of life here that I am experiencing or will experience as times goes on, giving me insight as to what to expect. For my friends who live in Panama vicariously through me, I have highly recommended they read this book.” Lorelei

“This book has everything and more than original book had. It is so current, that you will think you are reading the morning newspaper. If you have the original book, now is the time to upgrade. The book itself is also much improved over the original book with very few typos left for us nitpickers to pounce upon. Once you start reading this book, it is extremely hard to put down until you have finished it. If the book wasn’t so entertaining to read, I would say that it should be considered as the text book for Relocating to Panama 101. Panama is not for everyone, this book may save you thousands and thousands of dollars down the road. Get it! Read it!” Larry H

“Besides almost living in Panama for ten years, building a home in Panama and owning a business in Panama, Richard has traveled extensively lecturing about Panama on cruise ships. His second book, an updated version of the original, has more insight into the good, bad and sometimes even ugly about expats living and retiring in Panama as well as wonderful stories about his life along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very useful in regards to my future retirement to Panama. Highly informative, entertaining and a great read!” Allison W. Gunn

“Thinking of moving to Panama? Read this book first! It could save you a lot of time, money, trouble, and worry. Not only is the book entertaining, it’s full of really important information for people considering making a move of this magnitude.” E. Bolton

Mr and Mrs Claus Come To VisitTHE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE is an updating of one of the best books about moving to and living in Panama. Richard Detrich has lived in Panama for a decade and he still thinks of it as paradise. His book is a pragmatic and thought-provoking guide if you seriously contemplate moving to a new land. My wife and I researched living in Central and South America for more than fifteen years. Once we chose Panama as our future home this was the book, more than any other, that we relied upon for both its information and its anecdotes. (The Ambulance Ride Story could almost have come from the Canterbury Tales, but it drives home the point of the differences in medical care between our countries.) If you have plans to live in Panama you certainly should be forearmed with this book!” Jim Fletcher

“Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask regarding the Panama experience. RichApr 3013 Panama Relocation Tourard has endured the trials and tribulations, the discovery and the rewards of life in Panama, and candidly lays it all out for you.” J. Sacco

“He’s amusing and informative. He doesn’t write seriously, yet covers all necessary ground to give us an accurate picture of life in Panama without blinders. All pertinent questions are covered informatively and accurately, giving you a clear understanding of the reality you would experience.I strongly recommend The NEW Escape to Paradise. It’s a great read!”Doug Tyler

 

13 Things the Offshore Gurus Will NOT Tell You About Panama

Driveway leading to house

Driveway leading to our house

When I come back and visit the US and folks find out I live in Panama they’re always interested and have lots of questions. It’s not unusual to bump into folks who subscribe to, or have read press releases by outfits that promote seminars and literature about living in Panama. Yes, it has been “paradise” for us and many others, but it is not “perfect” and some of these outfits tend to gloss over the realities of life in Panama. The more you know about how life really is in Panama, or whatever country you are considering, the happier you will be when you make the move.

One of the things I like about Panama Relocation Tours is that it’s not a real estate tour. Nobody is selling anything. It’s a boots-on-the-ground tour that allows you to experience the real Panama and talk with real expats about their experiences living in Panama. Jackie Lange, who runs Panama Relocation Tours, wrote this piece on her blog

Ask 100 expats what their life is like in Panama, you will get 100 different answers.

Their perspective depends on where they live, how patient they are, and how much they have attempted to accept Panama for what it is… a developing country.

When you read offshore publications about Panama you’d think the whole country is a “Paradise”. The distant photos of down town Panama City look like any first world metropolis. But walk the streets or drive around the country and you will quickly notice that it is not as developed as the USA, Canada or Europe.

With its beautiful skyscrapers, new subway system, and Trump Tower, Panama City is certainly impressive. Some areas are very modern with underground utilities. But that is not the way it is in most of Panama City – or Panama in general.

Many people say Panama is like the USA was in the 1960s but with cell phones, internet and flat screen TVs. I grew up in the ’60s and have fond memories of what life was like then. Panama does offer a simple life where young children can walk all over town safely and family values still exist.

But it is not all paradise.

Here are 13 things you won’t read about in in the sugar-coated publications about moving to Panama:

(1) Don’t assume you will have hot water at every house or at every faucet in the house. Some houses only have warm water at the shower.
Be careful to check out the hot water situation before you decide to rent or buy. You should not rent a house without seeing it first.

(2) Internet speed is not the same throughout the country or even on the same street. If you are lucky enough to live in an area serviced by Cable Onda, you can get up to 15 mgps for about $50 a month. If you can’t get Cable Onda, you will be forced to use MobileNet or Planet Telecom where 2 mgps will cost you $125 per month and you will pay a whopping $250 for 4 mgps. Cable Onda is available 1 mile from my house but I’m stuck with paying the higher prices for less speed.

(3) The sidewalks are not level. They may have holes your whole foot can fit through, or metal pipes protruding in bad places or the sidewalk may have stretches which are completely missing. You need to wear sturdy shoes and watch where you are walking at all times in Panama.

(4) If Code Enforcement from the USA came to Panama, they would probably shut down most of the country. There is crazy wiring inside and outside. There are steps and other unlevel surfaces with no handrails or safety devices. There usually will not be a GFI outlet within 6 feet of all water sources. The only exception is new construction in the higher price ranges… maybe.

(5) Most places will have a sign in the bathroom asking you to NOT flush the toilet paper but instead to put it in a waste basket which is next to the toilet. Oh, and don’t assume that all public bathrooms will have toilet paper… bring your own. The reason you should not flush toilet paper because most businesses and homes have a septic system. The more toilet paper that is flushed, the more often they have to get their septic tanks cleaned out and it is just as expensive to do that in Panama as it is in the USA. We recently paid $175.

(6) You can pick your temperature by your elevation. If you are at a lower elevation, it will be hot and humid. If you are at 3500 feet it will be 75-80 just about every day and less humid. Get above 5000 feet and you can enjoy weather in the high 60s to mid-70s every day. Lower elevations (less than 3500 feet) will have more snakes, spiders, and bugs. There are tradeoffs.

(7) There is no Walmart. There are plenty of affordable stores but it will not be the same. We do have a have PriceMart which is very similar to a Sam’s or Costco. Currently, the only big fancy malls are in or near Panama City.

(8) Name brand, imported items will usually costs more, but similar Panama brands will usually cost much less than you pay now. You may or may not be able to find all the name brand items you use now but there is usually a good substitute.

(9) It rains a lot in Panama. We average 100 – 120 inches of rain a year. It does not rain every day or all day… usually. In the dry season, January – April, is may not rain for a month. In October and November it will pour down rain like the Heavens opened up and dumped the Pacific Ocean on Panama….but this usually happens in the late afternoon so you can plan accordingly. The rains keep everything looking lush and green and provide plenty of water for ships to go through the Panama Canal.

(10) Speaking of water… yes, there is plenty of water but the water distribution systems are not what you are familiar with. Some rural areas have water delivered in a small PVC pipe that gets busted occasionally. That means low water pressure at your house or no water. In the dry season, there may not be enough water pressure so it is important that you rent or buy a house that has a large reserve water tank so you have consistent water pressure. Other areas have more modern water delivery systems. In some areas, the water is treated in other areas it is not. So you really need to have a good water filter system at your house. Take all this in to consideration when you select a place to live.

(11) Panama is a Spanish speaking country. In Panama City, Coronado and Boquete English are widely spoken. But in other areas it is not. Even in the areas where English is widely spoken, not everyone will speak English. If you want to live in a Spanish speaking country, you need to learn some Spanish.

(12) Getting things done like opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, auto registration or even getting mail will be more complicated. It will get done, but your patience will be tested.

(13) Panama has small earthquakes. In the last 12 months I have felt 3 small tremors. They usually last 1-2 seconds. If you are sitting still, you will feel them. If you are driving or moving around you probably won’t feel them at all.

(14) I will throw in one more… There is poverty in Panama but it is not as bad as other South American or Central American countries I have visited. The Indian tribes are most affected by poverty because many of them have no skills and only make $12 – $15 a day. But Panamanians are proud people so you rarely see anyone begging for money.

So with all these negatives, why in the world would anyone want to live in a country like Panama?

For some it is purely economic, others have strong political reasons, and some are just ready for a new adventure. Regardless of the reason, these are the things you can enjoy when living in Panama:

Low utility costs (if you live in an area where you don’t need air conditioning)
Affordable health care .. I pay $2460 a year worldwide health insurance
No wars, no military
Very strong economy
Very low crime in most areas
Fresh air
Fresh fish from both coasts
Great produce and fruit supply – some organic
Great soil to grow your own food
Government leaves you alone and has less rules and regulations
Low or no taxes in Panama
If US citizen, you can take advantage of the $97,600 Foreign Earned Income Exemption
No hurricanes, No snow, No tornadoes
Consistent weather year round – no extremes
Plenty of water – no drought
Visible improvements happening all over the country .. for the better
Not a country divided with conflict from strong left or strong right political parties
Get away from the insanity and intrusion of the US government
Do not have to sign up for or pay for Obamacare
Incredibly beautiful scenery
A lot of opportunity
Small country so you can go to two Oceans or the mountains in a day…. Driving
Friendly and supportive expats… almost always
Friendly and supportive Panamanians… almost always
Pamananians do not have an entitlement mentality

I could go on and on…

Panama is just right for some. But Panama is too big of an adjustment for others who want everything to be like it is back home… wherever that might be.

Panama Relocation Tours will NOT sugar-coat what life is like in Panama. You will learn about the good things and the bad things about life in Panama. I will share my current personal experiences about living in Panama and so will all the other expats you meet with during the tour. The country is changing so quickly, you need to know what it is like being in expat in Panama this month.  For me personally, I can tell you that my only regret is that I did not come to Panama to check it out 10 or 20 years ago then move here sooner.

Panama’s Pensionado Discounts: Worth it on airfare?

The Panama Pensionado discount program is an often-touted reason to consider an expat retirement lifestyle in Panama. This program was developed for Panamanian retirees, not expat retirees, although Panama generously allows expat retirees who have permanent residence status to take advantage of the discounts. If you are a permanent resident in Panama, whether you live here on a Pensionado visa or “Friendly Nation” visa or other visa, once you reach Panamanian retirement age, which for men is 60 and for women is 55, you enjoy the discounts offered to all retirees. If you have a Pensionado visa you enjoy these benefits regardless of your age.

One of the benefits is “25% discount in air fares in public and private national and foreign Airlines.”

OK, so how does that work out in practice?

I’m back at sea later this fall and Nikki is going with me on several voyages. In order to get the Pensionado discount I went to a local travel agent. This is what we needed …

PTY – NYC – Where we pick up the ship
SJU – MIA – This cruise finishes in San Juan. My next assignment is out of Fort Lauderdale. We’ll spend some time between cruises doing a Florida road trip before Nikki returns to Panama.
MIA – PTY

So here’s what the travel agent came up with … with the Pensionado Discount $691.27

DL 392 24 OCT Panamá-Atlanta 8:00 AM –> 1:06 PM

DL 1419 24 OCT Atlanta-John F Kennedy 4:13 PM –> 6:35 PM

DL 309 13 NOV San Juan-Atlanta 12:35 PM –> 3:35 PM

DL 1527 13 NOV Atlanta-Fort Lauderdale 4:10 PM –> 6:05 PM

DL 1827 23 NOV Fort Lauderdale-Atlanta 1:45 PM –> 3:45 PM

DL 393 23 NOV Atlanta-Panamá 5:50 PM –> 9:53 PM

Lot’s of changes – lots of time in Atlanta [It's said with Delta, "If you want to go to Heaven you have to connect through Atlanta."]

And here’s what I came up with using the standard senior discount [65 and over], without the Pensionado discount $707.30

Copa 1922 24 OCT Panama-Newark [Nonstop] 10:05 AM –> 4:20 PM

American 397 13 NOV San Juan-Miami [Nonstop] 2:01 PM –> 3:55 PM

Copa 440 23 NOV Miami-Panama [Nonstop] 10:49 AM –> 1:50 PM

OK, the Pensionado rate was $16 cheaper. But for $16 more three DIRECT flights, and the Panama flight gets in early enough, that with a little luck, Nikki can get the last flight from Albrook to David, saving the cost and hassle of an overnight in Panama City!

So here’s how it works: the Pensionado Discount is the SAME as the 65 and over regular senior fare. If you are a Pensionado you get the senior rate even if you are not 65 and over. Once you turn 65 … it’s the same.

Your Letters & Comments

We’re all entitled

I was in Seattle cruising through Sam’s Club with my daughter and grandsons when I leafed through this book, found it amazing, thought it would be an excellent toilet book … you know an accessory to the “reading room” … and so I bought it.  I paid $10, which you will find out is $9 more than some folks paid.  I found it to be amusing, filled with attitude, and it helped fill the 10 hours in the back seats of airplanes and airports getting back to Panama almost tolerable.  And I appreciated the fact that it was making a sad point and didn’t expect it to be footnoted like an academic text.

Of course it got mixed reviews on Amazon, like this from a probably FOX addict …

Talk about stupid history–this writer should be in the book somewhere. Some good items in the front but then Fenster let his left-wing liberal views shine as bright as his negative attitude toward virtually everything. Not the least bit cute or funny. He should have quit while he was ahead on a few items, instead, it looks like he tossed about for any liberal trashy ideas to insert as filler. Don’t buy this one. Thank goodness (and there is goodness in the world!) I only paid one dollar for it at a book sale. Not even worth that but at least I discovered how seemingly hate-filled some liberals are, as if I didn’t already know. Oh, did I say something about accuracy? Don’t look for it in this book. Trashaway! It deserves a zero star.

I mention this only because of my recent stupidity …

002 (2) As I told my 6-year-old grandson, who looks 8 and has the vocabulary of a high school student and believes that he should be perfect in every way, “You’re allowed to make mistakes. Don’t sweat the small stuff.” So while I’ve been visiting in Seattle I’ve been trying to squeeze in blogging, but grand kids will trump blogging every time! I made the mistake of partially writing this blog, going ahead and scheduling it even although it wasn’t complete, with all good intentions .. so it ended up gong “live” online this morning unfinished. Dumb to schedule it before it was finished, but I doubt if it was dumb enough to make the “Stupid History” list.

Thank you … I think.

I’m always VERY pleased when you write a review of one of my books on Amazon!  Being an author you put your stuff out there … some folks like it, and others … well … “Super Dave” (doesn’t say what he is “super” at) wrote the following review of ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA

“A fun read for general info on Panama. The Cliff’s Notes version (if there was one) would be around 150 pages. He occasionally gets up on his soapbox and preaches about all God’s creatures, how happy we should all be to still be alive, etc. You may want to just skip over that.

A good general layout of the country with an emphasis on the western mountainous area, where he lives. Also, a bit surprising that he devotes a whole chapter to coffee. Maybe part of the Cliff Notes editing out?

One last critical comment and then I’ll opine on what I believe is the best part. He includes some maps of Panama, copy paste from somewhere. The one showing topographical features is virtually unreadable, too much detail shrunk down. The other full country map is OK. An easy improvement would be to reference the areas that he is talking about in the text (i.e. Boquete and Coronado) to locations on the map. Not currently done. Work on that one during your next lecture cruise (which he drones on about occasionally).

Now for the best part of this 400+ page somewhat pricey book…a real diversified well thought out 14 day itinerary for first time visitors…Canal, beaches, mountains, and islands. But you can probably get the same or similar from Traveladvisor or Frommers on-line.  Super Dave”

I responded …

Hey Super Dave! Thanks for the comment. When you publish something you put it out there and … well, some folks think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, others think its OK, and a few think its crap. But I do appreciate your comments and suggestions and will keep them in mind when I revise.

Here’s the FREE condensed Cliff Notes summary: “Panama, if you know what you’re getting into, can be GREAT as it has been for us. The key is to figure out what you want, evaluate potential countries, do your due diligence, and come with eyes wide open.” There, that should save you and others a lot of money!  But I hope folks still buy the book!

A few comments … I love it when folks “opine”, it sounds so legal and anchor-newsperson-like … The book title says it all: Escape To Paradise: OUR EXPERIENCE Living and Retiring In Panama. Coffee is a big part of the Boquete experience and has been a big part of our experience and its something folks always ask about (droning on here) when I’m on ships, so I included he chapter on coffee. If you buy a book written by a former pastor you gotta expect a little “preaching.” Mea culpa! And glad you liked the itinerary! No, it wasn’t from a guidebook but based on our experience. I hope you get to try it out! And if you come to Boquete let me know. I’ll treat you to a cup of the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.

It probably depends on where you position the “Super Dave” tattoo on your body.  Of course years ago my nickname was “Dick” … but we won’t even go there!

One other thing: Amazon calculates which book to put at the top of the list based in part on the NUMBER of reviews … so even if someone says “it sucks” it helps sell books. [Thank you friends for your willingness to support but you really don't have to write the "it sucks" review!]Best regards, Plain Old Non-”Super” Richard

khfitz6311 review made me feel a lot better about my efforts …

What a fantastic resource from someone who has been living in Panama and knows the eccentricities and nuance of the culture. Whether considering Panama or anywhere else to retire abroad, Richard provides a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Richard!

And this has what to do with COSTA CONCORDIA …

David Lane, a frequent commenter, wrote …

Note that your Coffee estate continues on the market. Just wondering if you retirement chateau/estate is one of the most expensive properties on the market for retiring expats? Can expats come and find retirement homes/properties in adequate living condition in the more affordable rages of $50,000 – 90,000 USD? How about some comments for those wanting the Boquete environment but not able or willing to expend their savings on costly properties.

David, “continues on the market” … well, I wish we could have sold it in three weeks. But most houses and properties for sale in Boquete take a little longer than maybe in a hot real estate market like the US where properties sell … When’s the last time you looked at Zillow.com for various US markets. Of course, if I recall correctly, you live in Florida where property sells immediately. Like anywhere else some folks just want cheap, others want value, others want something more upscale, and a few want something lavish.. I’ve frequently written about the fact that now, as opposed to when we came to Boquete ten years ago, there is a good inventory of homes for sale in all price ranges It just depends on what you want.

Soledad Chica responded to David’s comment  …

There are houses in our neighborhood (Valle Escondido) for $1.2million and $1.5million [and higher!] …..so no, Richard’s coffee finca/hacienda is not the most expensive in Boquete. In Boquete, as in other places: you get what you pay for. You can find more less expensive houses in the $50,000 – 90,000 range. They may be the more typical “Panamanian architecture” (box houses, low ceilings, small rooms, little to no light). If you want the open floor plan, high ceiling architecture more typically found in North America, that will cost you more. You might consider visiting the area and seeing the options for yourself. Boquete can be pricey, but the outlying areas (Volcan, Dolega, David) might have options to suit your price range.

David actually lives happily in Florida, but visits Panama frequently. Unfortunately these comments originally were added to a piece about the dismantling of the COSTA CONCORDIA and had nothing to do with the subject of the post. It’s helpful if a comment about a post has something to do with the subject of the post.

Renting A Car in Panama City

My best advice … don’t!  Since a picture is worth a thousand words …. this video was obviously shot on a day when traffic was actually doing quite well.

The other day I recounted our story the first time we came to check out Panama and see if it stayed on our list … and a few of you have shared your own stories.

“We also came to Panama 9 or 10 years ago for the first time at night, rented a car and didn’t have a clue where we were headed into the City to our hotel. We pulled over at a gas station to look at a map. A cab driver with a full load of people saw us, and asked if he could help. We followed him to the hotel. We were SO thankful. Fred offered him a generous tip which he refused, but Fred finally made him take it. Most Panamanians are such gracious people! Kathy Donelson”

“Love your story about your first day in Panama. We also stupidly rented a car (though we were staying a few days in the City before heading out). At least we drove during the day, but we also got hopelessly lost in the Chorillo District (which is where I assume you ended up since it’s very seedy and we have the Americans to thank for that since they bombed it to smithereens during the invasion to oust Noriega). We also were on a one way street going the wrong way and were almost broadsided by a bus as we emerged onto a major road because the driver was not expecting anyone to come out from our direction. Thankfully, some scary looking, but actually very helpful young Panamanian men gave us directions (they spoke Spanish, but so do I!). A few days later we tried driving into Casco Viejo and again ended up in Chorillo. Again, nothing bad happened but I’d lie if I said I wasn’t a bit fearful.

Frankly, if you are in Panama City for the first time,, don’t rent a car! taxis are reasonably priced. I don’t know how the new subway is but I’m sure it’s an improvement over driving yourself around. There is construction everywhere and detours galore. I would suggest holding off renting a car until you’ve finished a couple of days in the city and are then ready to hit the road for the countryside.
:If you are adventurous or on a tight budget, Panama’s intercity bus system isn’t bad. Even the “express” buses will often drop you off between cities if you tell the driver and baggage handler before you board so they load your luggage in front and can off load it easily. But be forewarned, the large Mercedes luxury buses (between Panama City and David) are freezing cold. We even took an Expresso bus (the Panamanian competitor of the Tica bus) from Panama City to San Jose Costa Rica a 13 hour adventure. I had to laugh because during an immigration check in western Panama a gringa girl (who was apparently illegally in the country) bolted for the bathroom and stayed there until the officials had checked everyone’s passports or other papers and gotten off. When we got to Costa Rica, three gringo backpackers decided to bypass immigration and customs and simply walked across the border and kept on going, I’m sure they got picked up and sent back because there were at least three immigration checkpoints once we got into Costa Rica. So Central America also has a problem with illegal immigrants, some of them from North America. Squirrelmama”

Telling It Like It Is

Once in a while I come across folks, some who’ve lived here a short time and maybe sat in a hotel seminar room and believed the pollyanish “facts” about life in Panama from people who were selling something, or they’ve talked to newly-minted experts, or even people in the States who haven’t lived in Panama and haven’t a clue … and they complain that I present Panama warts and all. Fortunately most folks, who before they pick up, move, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, would like to know the real truth. So that’s what I try to present. Do we love Panama and our life here? Yes! Is life in Panama without challenges and frustrations? No! Just the facts ma’am is all I’m trying to do.

Always love your posts, Richard. You always tell it “exactly like it is!” Kathy Donelson

Kathy’s a Boquete resident who has been here about as long as we have and helped me with the NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE. You’ll find very few folks who’ve lived here for a while have any disagreement with my approach.

I just finished reading your book after a recent trip to Panama. We stayed in Panama City for two night. Not for us, not even close. Then we stayed in Bijao Beach, too hot and humid. We were supposed to stay in Boquete for the last four nights. When I searched resorts near Boquete Isle Palenque popped up. The resort was nice but not very handicapped accessible.( I need handrails) so we never made it to Boquete. On our next trip that will be the only place we are staying. I thought the pensionado program seemed to good to be true.At one point while reading your book I felt excited to read the good, bad and the ugly. I went from saying yes we’ll give it a try to absolutely decided we needed to go back again and check out Boquete. Signed, Can’t Wait for Retirement

“…Everyone’s experience living in Panama is different. Richard’s book explains is excellent and explains his experience [from] when he moved to Panama 10 years ago … His chapter about evaluating what you need and want then finding the place to fill those needs is a must read. Richard’s blog shares details about his life in Panama now. Books or blogs written by expats who moved to Panama recently offer their perspectives. With all expat experiences, you will find some similarities but MANY differences. Seeing Panama through tourist eyes vs. expat life are two completely different animals. Like Richard said, the only way to know if Panama is right for you is to come see for yourself … Jackie Lange”

Good comment. However the perspective of “newbies” to Panama is often different, based on more limited experiences. It is best to get as wide of a variety of opinions as possible. Life in Panama is great, but like anywhere else, not without problems. The more you approach Panama with eyes wide open, the better your experience will be. It is a mistake to move to Panama to “escape from” rather than “escape to” what in my mind is a healthier and better lifestyle for less.

Great Blog, tells you the truth and exactly what we did. Subscribed to IL and got lots of information, made a trip here to see what Panama was like on our own, visited PC and the Azuero, liked it, went home and investigated some more. Came back about a year later, rented a car at the airport and took off with our GPS and visited all the places we thought might interest us. Ended up in Pedasi, moved here 6 months later. We came with 6 suitcases and one 4ft x 4ft x 6 ft crate, could have left half of it behind. You do NOT need to ship a 20 or 40 ft container full of “Stuff”. Most (98%) of what you need to live in Panama is NOT what you have where ever you live now. We rent and will always rent, have no need to buy. In Panama you buy in haste and sell in 3-5 years, Real Estate does NOT sell fast, even at fire sale prices. Check out some of the places for sale, most have been for sale at least 2 years. Read blogs, Read Forums, Take a relocation tour, DO NOT sit in a hotel while people who paid to be there paint a rosy picture of their particular offering. They need you to do what they want you to do because they have to make back the money they paid to be there.
If you get to Pedasi, give us a call, have a beer on our veranda at our house in the heart of the pueblo, 10 minutes from 3 great beaches.
PS: Bring kitchen items, tools, cotton clothes, sheets & towels.
PSS: Get a Schwab account, rebates all ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, no checking or savings account fees or charges. Must get it while you have a U.S. Address and then must keep a U.S. address. Get a Magic Jack, can use your present home number, anyone can call you for FREE, you can call them for FREE and they have an iPhone app that does the same thing once you have a basic MJ account. For us it has been better than Skype. Sunnymikkel

Hi Richard, Love your books and they have been very valuable to us in our retirement quest in Panama. We have visited Boquete 6 times now and a total of 11 in the country of Panama. We were among the visitors who were robbed in Boquete Plantation back in Feb. The lady in the adjoining apartment was tied up and robbed. Fortunately we were not there so only lost a large quantity of stuff which can be replaced. It has not deterred us and we will be back this coming Feb. My question is whether you may have heard anything from it. I know you wern’t involved but we have not gotten any concrete information. I would love to meet you on our next visit, Thanks Ed Jones

Ed, I know nothing about this incident, nor am I even sure what “Boquete Plantation” you are referring to. Maybe if you search Boquetening.com you’ll find some old scuttlebutt about this. Boquete is VERY SAFE: does that mean it is perfect? No. Sometimes I’ve noticed that some people come here, either to live or visit, and check their common sense at the border or just forget to pack it. When I first came down to Boquete, alone, to close our house purchase and start painting the interior, I called Nikki from a pay phone at the China store in Alto Boquete. Stupidly I left my wallet on the top of the pay phone. [That should qualify me for inclusion in the Stupid Things book!] I immediately drove back to the store and … the wallet was gone. OK, Panama is like everywhere else in the world. Our original house was in Valle Escondido. The next day one of the guards drove to my house with my wallet with all cash and credit cards intact. It seemed a Gnobe Bugle woman had come to use the phone after me, saw the wallet, tried to look in it for identification but found none. She came to the conclusion that a stupid gringo who left his wallet and money on the pay phone must be from Valle Escondido. So she paid out of her own tiny amount of money to take the bus, then walk to the guard shack at Valle Escondido to return my wallet wanting nothing in return and not even leaving her name. Nothing is perfect here, but you’ve got to weigh things out.

Kat, a snowbird expat from Canada who provided the “inspiration” for my posts How Safe Is Panama? I II and III, wrote in follow-up …

Thank you for that post Richard. I am still left wondering if Stig was a random attack or whether his attackers were known to him. We are one of the people with a house in Bocas and my husband actually met Wild Bill. We are all happy to know that he and his wife are in prison. It reminds us to be cautious of our acquaintances. We will be returning to Panama this fall, but for now will keep Canada as our primary residence.

Kat, a good question, and one which I’m sure detectives have been asking. There are some things about this account which, IMHO, seem just too convenient. Maybe we will know someday, but this being Panama, maybe not.

I appreciate all of your comments! And will try to get to as many as possible.

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since we’ve talked!

I appreciate your comments and emails and I do try to respond although not always as quickly as you or I would like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlanting Coffee Trees & Wondering “Where’s the rain?”

This is weird weather … we’re into the rainy season which should mean glorious sunny mornings, followed by cloud build up, and predictable rain in the afternoon.  What do we get?  Seattle-like cloudy mornings!  OK, Ventura-summer overcast mornings.  In the afternoon we get some flash and bang and a little drizzle, but not the tropical rain we expect.  And this is the time to plant coffee trees, so we need the rain!

We’ve been planting, Nikki and I in the dirt, coffee trees.  600 little black bags with two year-old trees in a bag, each about a foot tall.  When we have over 4,000 trees why would we plant more?  Although coffee trees last a long, long time, after about 15 years their production declines and you need to pull out the older trees and replace them.  With a little extra care and babying, the new trees will start producing in three to four years.

My coffee guy has been convinced by the local curandera that he has a brown thumb and that whatever he plants will die … this makes a lot of sense since he works on a coffee farm! … and there either appears to be an element of truth in this, or he just doesn’t like to plant.  So, like most things in Panama, we adjust … and get down on our hands and arthritic knees and plant.

This is also the time when the baby fer de lance snakes are born, and yesterday I said to Nikki, as we were on the ground in the leaves digging and planting, “Be careful of snakes!” She replied, “Listen, if I get bit just leave me here to relax and die in peace!”

I told her not to worry about dying since the local Indians haven’t heard the birds singing at night recently.  When the birds sing at night someone is going to die … and it happens!

Panama Relocation Tour

One of the folks on the June tour send me this great photo of the whole group!  Nice bunch of folks!  Folks always ask, “Do you know how many people who take the tour actually end up in Panama?”  According to Jackie Lange, who runs Panama Relocation Tours, 37% of the tour participants from the past four years are actually now living in Panama.

june 2014 tour

Thank you for your comments about THE NEW ESCAPE TO PANAMA!

“Just finished your book, THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE and having been meaning to write you. I have to say that what and how you laid out the details is outstanding. You covered the reality of pros and cons. It is by far the best book out there for folks that want to relocate to Panama. We will arrive in April and rent for a year or so. Thank you for all the great advice and saving us some mistakes and money! Cheers, John & Susan Pazera”

“Great book, especially helpful if you are considering moving or retiring to Panama. I loved all the insight to their experiences and can’t wait to experience the country myself. Joan”

“I gave this book a 5 stars because it answers all the questions about living and retiring in Panama with the pros and cons. Gilberto Smith”

“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. Daniel Bridges”

“Extremely helpful. 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. Dorothy”

“Richard really knows what he’s talking about. Down to earth, no sugar coating. The book lays out both the good and not so good of living in Panama. I highly recommend it. Steve Mc Vicar”

ReadersThank you all so very much! I appreciate your comments and I REALLY appreciate it when you review the book on Amazon. The number of reviews helps push a book higher … so if you do a search on “living in Panama” or similar, the number of reviews, good or bad (!), helps push a book to the top of the list. And now that I have two grandsons to send to college … it helps!

The Big Finish & The New Start

The big finish … as usual in Panama the outgoing President pardons everyone and his brother who had anything to do with his administration.

IN HIS LAST last public act as president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli On his last day as president, Ricardo Martinelli yesterday pardoned or gave sentence reductions to 660 people.
368 were pardoned , conditional sentences were awarded to 276 prisoners and sentences of 16 inmates were reduced..
The Government Gazette published the pardons in five digital editions, some of which were released after 8 p.m. The majority of the pardons bear the signatures of Martinelli and acting Minister of Government Alma Cortés. Minister of Government Jorge Ricardo Fábrega signed two of the decrees, including the one that granted pardons to the defendants of the 2004 case involving the flooding of Prados del Este.
The pardons include those given to political allies of Martinelli who have been accused of using state resources for political means. They include Small Business Authority Director Giselle Burillo, Secretary of State Communication Luis Eduardo Camacho, Molirena Party President Sergio González Ruiz, Molirena official Janón Gabriel and National Council for Sustainable Development Director Danna Harrick.
Also pardoned were former Municipal Engineer Jaime Salas, former presidential candidate Gerardo Barroso, former PRD presidential hopeful Honorio Vega, former Deputy Francisco “Toto” Ameglio, lawyer Sidney Sitton, and several journalists, such as Rafael Berrocal, Julio Miller, Alfonso Zamora, Carlos Zavala and Alfredo Prieto, who was also the former Secretary of State Communication under Martinelli.
Last week, Martinelli awarded 15 pardons. The beneficiaries include Tribunal Electoral President Erasmo Pinilla and former Director of Civil Aviation Eustacio Fábrega. The two publicly rejected the presidential pardons, saying they had done nothing wrong to be pardoned for. [NEWSROOM PANAMA]

And the new President Juan Carlos Varela promised … a chicken in every pot, or at least price controls on chicken, and the favorite words in Panama politics … “honesty and transparency.” Hmmm.

Conservative Juan Carlos Varela took office as Panama’s president Tuesday pledging to finish a troublesome canal expansion, stamp out corruption and get more people out of poverty.

The 50-year-old rum maker donned the presidential sash in a massive ceremony at Rommel Fernandez stadium in the capital attended by a handful of world figures including US Secretary of State John Kerry, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

“We’ve got plenty of laws. What we need are men and women who respect them; that’s what I am here for,” Varela said to large cheers, warning: “Corruption will not be tolerated in our government.”

Varela, who was elected to a five-year mandate in May 4 polls, replaced Ricardo Martinelli, a supermarket magnate who leaves office with high popularity despite corruption allegations.

Panama’s vice-president and a former Martinelli supporter, Varela was the surprise winner in a three-way race. Final results put him seven percentage points ahead of his nearest rival, Martinelli loyalist Jose Domingo Arias.

Varela has called for a national unity government to sustain economic growth, reduce inflation, combat violent crime and strengthen democracy.

Venezuela broke ties with Panama in March, when President Nicolas Maduro slammed Martinelli as a corrupt US lackey. But Varela has set dialogue with Caracas as a priority.

And just as Varela was sworn in, Venezuela announced it was restoring bilateral ties. These had been severed when Martinelli sought a meeting at the Organization of American States in Washington to discuss the death of 43 anti-government protesters in Venezuela.

Canal priority
Topping Varela’s weighty agenda is finishing an expansion of the Panama Canal, a massive project which is a year behind schedule and has been mired in controversy.

The vast construction project was to have been completed this year, but delays and cost overruns have pushed back the schedule to early 2016.

“We are blessed to have the canal, a major piece of infrastructure which serves our nation, and world trade. As president, I will make sure the expansion is completed successfully, while protecting the state’s interest,” Varela pledged in his address.

The construction to add wider locks and channels capable of handling much larger container ships is one of the world’s most ambitious civil engineering projects.

The 80-kilometer (50-mile) long canal was completed by US interests in 1914 to provide a shorter, safer route between the Atlantic and Pacific.

Work to expand it was interrupted earlier this year over a dispute about who would pay for an estimated $1.6 billion in cost overruns. It was also hit by a strike by workers demanding higher wages.

The stakes are high for the project, with five percent of the world’s maritime trade already passing through the canal. The expanded waterway will be able to process 12,000 container ships in its first year of use, triple the current capacity.

‘Empty coffers’
Analysts warn Varela has his work cut out. “There are empty coffers, there are pending disputes between different unions and the canal work is overdue, such that the money that was counted upon is not coming in, and this will affect how he governs,” market analyst Jaime Porcell told AFP.

“Varela has to clean up the mess Martinelli left behind and keep the broken promises of other administrations” to lower the prices of basic goods, control crime and punish corruption, lawyer and political analyst Mario Rognoni told AFP.

Varela though takes office amid a huge economic boom in Panama, a small Central American nation of 3.8 million people focused economically on trade, tourism and services.

Panama saw breakneck 8.4 percent growth in 2013 but 26 percent of people live in poverty, according to the government.

Varela has said that his first act as president will be to sign an executive order to control prices of 22 products to lower inflation, his main campaign promise. Price controls are not often on a conservative’s policy plan.

He also pledged drinking water for the entire country.

Varela on Monday reached an agreement with the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) guaranteeing him a majority in Congress, which will make it possible for him to pass laws and nominations.

Varela’s Panamenista Party holds only 13 of the 71 seats in Congress, but the agreement with PRD creates a 38-seat majority. [Associated Press]

Varela also held out an olive branch and a promise of a new life to members of Panama’s estimated 200 gangs: amnesty if gang members turn in their weapons by August 1st and choose to lead a “normal life.”

As Varela well knows, given the alliance he had with Martinelli as Vice President, “things change” in Panama.  Alliances can be made … and broken.

Catching Up

At least with paper snail mail you had a stack of paper on your desk as a reminder that you needed to catch up. Now, although it’s not mail, I still have stacks of stuff … have no idea what’s in the stack, but I guess it just makes me feel comfortable!

I appreciate your comments … I really do! And I read and enjoy them all and eventually do get around to doing something with them … all.

It’s a party weekend!

OK, it’s a cultural difference! It’s 2:42 a.m. in Panama and competing parties are still going strong … and noisy.  I can hear the party with the music “typica” blasting away at the community center from one direction, and from the other direction the sounds of clapping and praise coming from the little charismatic evangelical church in town.  So, since I can’t sleep …

Thank you for your comments on Amazon!

If you’ve enjoyed my books, please comment!  Even if you didn’t enjoy them, please comment.  Why?  In part the way Amazon determines position of books is by the number of comments so even if it isn’t a five-star comment, it helps position, which helps sales.

Thanks for these comments about THE NEW ESCAPE TO PANAMA …

“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. Daniel Bridges”

“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. Dorothy”

“This is the perfect book to read if you are considering a move to Panama or just want to know all about Panama from an insider. After living in Panama for just a few months, this book addressed aspects of life here that I am experiencing or will experience as times goes on, giving me insight as to what to expect. For my friends who live in Panama vicariously through me, I have highly recommended they read this book. Lorelei”

Fake vs. Real

The world is full of fakes! Be it watches, boobs, medicine, fashion items, currency, get rich quick schemes … even people!  So, hopefully we’ve all learned to beware.

Items can be advertised and packaged to look like the real deal, but when you look closely you discover they’re not the same and the quality is far different.  And in many jurisdictions even possessing a counterfeit product can get you arrested.  Unfortunately someone is even trying to counterfeit the Panama Relocation Tour.

From Jackie Lange …

If you thinking about signing up for Panama Relocation Tours make sure you are getting information and a phone number from http://www.PanamaRelocationTours.com web site. Call 972-496-6032 or 972-496-4500 or email info@panamarelocationtours.com. Otherwise, it is not MY company. Beware of the imitators.

I tell you this because

This is my 4th year of doing all-inclusive tours in Panama. As you can see from http://www.PanamaRelocationTours.com web site there are many photos of our tour groups and many testimonials from customers who said the tour exceeded their expectations. These are real photos taken during tours (not photo shopped) and real testimonials from people who have been on my tour.

When people sign up for our tours we deliver!

More proof….

Richard Detrich often joins me on the tours and has written about the tours on his blog at http://www.RichardDetrich.com

Bob Adams of http://www.RetirementWave.com usually meets with the group and my tour company is the only one he endorses because he knows I deliver what I promise and we do not sell real estate or have any other financial arrangement with the places we go during the tour or the people we meet with the tour.

I tell you this because…

Unfortunately, last October a travel agent out of Arizona started advertising ‘Panama Relocation Tours’ on her web site and all over the internet. She is also working with a guy in Panama to do marketing for her and a guy in Canada to do marketing for her. They both have Panama Relocation Tours on their web sites, social media sites and other places online.

They are all using MY tour company name, Panama Relocation Tours in their marketing.

They have even used my video testimonials and my tour pictures on their web site.

I have contacted these imitators many times to ask them to stop using my tour company name to promote their tours. Finally after no results, I had my attorney in the USA and in Panama send them a Cease and Desist Notice.

But they have not backed down. In the last couple of weeks, I discovered why…

Last week I got a call from two couples demanding a refund for the tour they never got. I had never heard of the people before.
They did not sign up for MY tour.

Panama Escape Artist told me about another guy who had the same problem, he signed up for a tour but a week before the tour was told it was postponed because not enough people signed up.

Today, I learned that a couple came in to Explora Ya in Boquete complaining that they paid thousands of dollars for Panama Relocation Tours but a week before the tour were told that the tour was postponed because not enough people signed up. Since they already had their airplane tickets, they came to Panama anyway. They, like many others, paid for a tour they did not receive and never got a refund for.

Needless to say this was NOT MY Panama Relocation Tours.!

I would never do that to anyone. And I have never, ever cancelled a tour because not enough people were signed up.

There is no telling how many people have been hurt by this unscrupulous travel agent from Arizona and her marketing partners. Plus this travel agent is doing “tours” in Belize and Costa Rica too so her scam may extend way beyond Panama.

I need to figure out how to stop them before more people are hurt and my excellent reputation is damaged. That is one reason for this post.

Many expats, and would be expats, have a tendency to think they can trust people from their home country more. That is not necessarily so in Panama or other countries. Trust but verify before you do business with anyone. Con artists come and go in Panama too.

The big event for gardeners …

If you are a gardener in Chiriqui the big event every one looks forward to is Carla Black’s Annual Heliconia Plant Sale, July 5 & 6th in Volcan. Carla is the expert on heliconia. These “typical” tropical plants have an amazing variety and just to visit Carla’s beautiful finca is a worthwhile experience. She has other plants for sale including beautiful tropical water lilies. Other years she’s had friends and neighbors who bring orchids for sale as well. This is the rainy season in Panama, the really fun time for gardeners and the time to plant and replant.

Rent First?

Generally I advise folks to come down and rent a place in Boquete for 3 to 6 months before deciding to make the move.  However, that’s not what we did!  We came, we saw, found a place we loved, bought it and have been happily living in paradise for ten years!

Hello Richard, This is Richard & Ofelia from NJ. Hope you remember us from the Panama Relocation Tour last September. We’re looking for a nice fully-furnished rental within a Mile & Half from Boquete center starting in January 2015 for six months or even longer. We started looking on the websites i.e: VIVUIN to find a suitable rental but as of now we’re having a difficulty. What’s the best way to secure a good rental property? Should we just fly down for a week and look around or do you have a reliable Real Estate Agent you could recommend? Just to let you know, this is our wish list for rental property: Fully furnished House with a modern kitchen & Bathroom, 2-3 Bedrooms or 2 bedrooms with a small den ( computer room will be fine), a nice view & reliable internet & water supply. We’d like to keep our rental budget about $1.200/month. Any help you could offer is greatly appreciated. Looking forward to having a reunion dinner with you guys.

One of the best resources for finding rentals is Boquetening.com which functions as kind of classified bulletin board.  A real estate agent is generally going to jack up the price for a rental as their fee.  If you have a week, come down and look around.  A lot of rentals are found by word of mouth.  It’s easy to take what you find on-line, and weave your own dream around the property description, which may or may not end up as accurate.  Right now is off-season so there is good availability for rentals, often at discounted rates.  January is prime time.  For what you are seeking I’d think of a budget more around $1,500-1,800.  You can also put an announcement on Boquetening.com for what you want..

Speaking of Boquetening.com…

One of the folks on the May Panama Relocation Tour who has been following Boquetening asked me “how indicative are the comments on Boquetening of the expat community in Boquete?”  These folks worried that the felt some of the discussions were “catty, rude, sometimes vindictive and reflecting a lot of petty bitchiness.”  They wondered if that was typical of the expat community here.

I think Boquetening plays an important role for our expat community.  I know Lee Zelter and he attempts to keep things open yet civil.  As the expat community has grown we have attracted more “types” of people.  A lot of folks who’ve been here for a while don’t engage in the fray of who said what to whom, yada yada.  I occasionally look at the discussions on Boquetening but mostly use it when I’m looking to buy or sell something.  I read Lee’s blogs and it is sometimes helpful to get news, or just unsubstantiated “news”, that’s too local to find elsewhere. Yes there are some folks who hang out maybe too much on Boquetening and may need to get lives. And there are a few who’ve never mastered the art of thinking before posting.  But, as the expat community has grown we get all kinds of folks.  We’re not all the same.  We don’t have the same political and economic views or even the same lifestyles.  I think that’s healthy.

On two different Relocation Tours I met folks who have expressed similar concerns.  They have asked me privately and nicely, but what they were really asking is “can we find our kind of people here?”  In one case they were looking for people who perhaps were more intellectual, educated, whatever … the kind of folks who would spend Sunday morning reading the entire NEW YORK TIMES.  And the answer is yes!  Another couple, maybe reacting to the fact that many US tour participants seemed to be looking at Panama as a place to live cheaper, said, “We don’t want to throw money away, but we have money and we like to live nicely.”  And the fact is that in Boquete you can find a beautiful little home to rent for $800 a month or a mansion to buy for $2 million.  Panama has poor, middle class, rich and VERY rich folks.  You can enjoy Panama on a range of vastly different budgets. Another couple was concerned about finding an English-speaking, evangelical church. Through the years we’ve had a number of fledgling groups and fellowships, but now we have a “real’ full-fledged, organized church, even with a nice, little building, not that you need a building to have a church.  Another was concerned about how they would fit in as a gay person.  Panama is officially a Roman Catholic country and although sex between persons of the same sex is legal, not everyone in the Catholic church has gotten the Pope’s “Who am I to judge?” message.  Boquete is not Panama City, so no, even small, gay PRIDE parade.  But we do now have a Gay Community group in Boquete of local Panamanians and expats.

Panama is a very diverse country, and so is Boquete, and so is the expat community within Boquete.  You can find “your kind of people” here, regardless of “your kind.”  More importantly perhaps, you have the freedom and opportunity to cross cultural barriers and embrace the variety of Boquete.  We’re not all the same!  Get used to it!  Embrace it!

It’s 4:01 a.m. and the party and fellowship is over …

So long, farewell
Auf Weidersehen, goodbye

(Kurt)
I leave and heave
A sigh and say goodbye
Goodbye

(Brigitta)
I’m glad to go
I cannot tell a lie

(Louisa)
I flit, I float
I fleetly flee, I fly

(Gretel)
The sun has gone
To bed and so must I

(Children)
So long, farewell
Auf Weidersehen, goodbye

Countries with the Best Quality of Life in 2014 for Expat Retirees

005One of the great things about the Panama Relocation Tours is the chance to meet with expats and get their unfiltered and unrehearsed views of life in Panama.  In addition to “ordinary folks” we also get a chance to meet with some folks who blog about life in Panama and qualify as “expert expats.”  These aren’t people who “just got off the boat” and are instant experts, but folks who’ve been here, are experienced, and have keen insights.  One of these is Bob Adams who writes RetirementWave.com  and lives in Panama City.  Another is Susanna Perkins with whom we usually have lunch when we visit Las Tablas.  That’s her at the end of the table, but since you can’t really see her, I’ll include her picture.  Susanna is a writer whose written a book Untether Yourself: 5 Portable Careers to Support You Overseas and who writes a blog FutureExpats.com.  Susanna put together this blog, listing what various companies engaged in “selling” expat life overseas perceive as the best places to retire.

Today we’re looking at the places that are best for retirees.

By “retiree” I don’t mean you have to be over 65 and not working. I just mean you’re not employed full-time by a multinational company.

You could be in your 30s or 40s with a couple of kids. . . or enjoying slow travel through every country in the Americas. . . or teaching English in Asia. But whatever you’re doing, you’ve chosen where you want to be, you’re not on an assignment by XYZMultiCorp.

So without further ado, here are the best quality of life countries for expat retirees.

International Living

They use a complicated formula that accounts for cost of real estate, special benefits offered to retirees, cost of living, ease of fitting in, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate. They published results in their January, 2014 magazine.

Within a country they only consider the areas they recommend for expat retirement living, although their list is by country, not by city.

Panama
Ecuador
Malaysia
Costa Rica
Spain
Colombia
Mexico
Malta
Uruguay
Thailand
Ireland
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Italy
Portugal
France

I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised by a list that puts Nicaragua ahead of Italy, Portugal and France. . .

Live and Invest Overseas

I appreciate that they recommend, not an entire country, but a specific city or region. Here’s their 2014 list:

Coronado, Panama
Medellin, Colombia
South of France
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Cayo District, Belize
Cuenca, Ecuador
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Granada, Nicaragua

Even better, they highlight why they recommend each one, and share a monthly budget for that location.

Coronado’s at the top of the list because it’s the “most turnkey, expat-ready” place to retire. When you combine Panama’s unparalleled retiree benefits with an oceanfront community, and lots of expats, it’s pretty darned appealing. Add to that an estimated budget starting at $1,800/month ($600 of that for rent), and it’s surprisingly affordable.

Only an hour or so outside of Panama City, in Coronado you’re close enough to take advantage of the shopping and the nightlife when you want it — and world-class medical care if you need it.

Personally, I think that estimated budget is a bit low — I could easily spend $600/month for rent here in Las

AARP

The AARP looked for “warm and sunny, attractively affordable locales with good-to-excellent health care that are hospitable to Americans of retirement age.” They only list countries, not cities, and their list is alphabetical.

Argentina
Belize
Costa Rica
France
Italy
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama
Portugal
Spain

If Health Care is your Top Priority

An article in the Huffington Post by Kathleen Peddicord (publisher of Live & Invest Overseas, whose retiree list is above), lists the top eight choices for overseas retirement if health care is your biggest concern. These are also listed alphabetically.

Cebu, Philippines
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cuenca, Ecuador
Georgetown, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Languedoc, France
Medellin, Colombia
Panama City Beaches (ie, Coronado area), Panama

More Postcards From Paradise

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOoops!

My project to finish the little casita on our property in Boca Chica got off to a rough start: I fell down the hill and cracked my ribs.  Stupid me.  Jorge, the 21-year old helping us, had already fallen going down the hill, but I thought I knew better.  Not so!  Guess I need to start acting my age.  So we lose a couple of days.  It only hurts when I laugh, sneeze, or turn in bed.

It’s taken a while but Boca Chica is starting to get “on the map” as a Pacific resort area.  There have always been fishing lodges like my neighbor Bruce’s Gone Fishing Panama.  Just off shore is the huge Chiriqui Marine Sanctuary with an abundance of giant fish, dolphins, whales and even whale sharks.  Palenque Island which is being developed as an upscale resort community.  A week here for a couple during the “green season”  (i.e. rainy season) runs from $3000 to $4200 in an ocean suite.  A more affordable new resort is Bocas del Mar just across the water from us where rooms go from $139 to $200 during the “green season”.  And, by the way, the “green season” or rainy season is my favorite time in Panama!  First everything is lush green.  It generally will rain, sometimes hard, sometime in the late afternoon, but usually the mornings are bright, blue and sunny with clouds building up after lunch and a thunder storm in late afternoon, just about the time you are ready to curl up with a book and my newly discovered “Panama Red” rum.

OK, it's tiny, but bigger than a lot of suites on cruise ships!

OK, it’s tiny, but bigger than a lot of suites on cruise ships!

Paradise Lost

Not exactlyESCAPE TO PARADISE but a movie entitled “Paradise Lost” will be shot in Chiriqui starting next week.

“Paradise Lost”, a romance-thriller involving the niece of late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, to be played by Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro . . .The source refused to give details about when the shooting would begin or at what precise locations, saying the production company has asked for “maximum discretion”.

But media outlets said some technical staff had begun arriving in Panama, while Del Toro, 46, will be in the Central American country next week when filming starts in the western province of Chiriqui, which borders Costa Rica, and Cerro Azul, a mountainous area outside Panama City.

The film will be the directorial debut of Italy’s Andrea Di Stefano, who also wrote the screenplay. As an actor, Di Stefano has appeared in more than a score of TV productions and movies, including Taiwanese-American filmmaker Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”.

“Paradise Lost” tells of the romance that develops between Pablo Escobar’s niece, Mary, and a surfer named Nick (Josh Hutcherson), who falls in love with the young woman during a trip to Colombia.


Hunting For Scorpions

scorpion light Our friend and neighbor, and renter of our casita, Shaun, has officially become Panamanian – all in less than 2 months! They’ve bought a house, a car, opened a bank account, and their container is even already here and sitting at Chiriqui storage awaiting the move in date for their new home. Does all that make you officially “Panamanian”? No! But the other day, on his birthday no less, Shaun dutifully shook out his slippers before putting them on, but never-the-less there was a scorpion inside! A big sucker! So now having been bit by a scorpion, even although he hadn’t managed the appropriate swear words in Spanish, Shaun is officially Panamanian!

James send me the picture of the black light flashlight. James has been here checking out Panama on several Panama Relocation Tours and he is now packing up his container for the move. Wisely, he ordered the black light flashlight from Amazon so he could go “scorpion hunting” when he gets here. Like tee-shirts washed in Tide, in the black light the scorpions show up a brilliant white!

Speaking of the Panama Relocation Tour . . .

Panama Relocation Tour Wine & Cheese at our house

Panama Relocation Tour Wine & Cheese at our house

How do you think James knew to pack a black light flashlight?   I doubt if that practical fact is mentioned on the pricey real estate relocation tours that are pitched by companies whose business is getting folks to Panama and where the presenters generally pay to participate.

The Panama Relocation Tours are boots on the ground tours where nobody is selling anything.  You just get to see, and experience what life is really like in Panama in many of the areas expats like to call home.  Of the recent tour, 1/3 of the group, three couples, are escaping to paradise.  One couple to Volcan, another to Valle Escondido in Boquete, and a third planning to come down and rent and explore further.  My connection?  My book ESCAPE TO PARADISE: LIVING & RETIRING IN PANAMA is the textbook and required reading for tour participants.  And whenever we are in Panama we always have everyone over to our house for wine and cheese.