The Flip Side: It All Depends

The other day I wrote a post entitled “Don’t Sell Panama Cheap” comparing the lowest priced home with a nice lot that I know of in Boquete, and then compared it to what is available in the US at the same price.  My point: some things in Panama MAY cost less, but not necessarily so … it depends.  Depends on what and where your comparison is located.

Yes, I get my hair cut for $3 at a traditional, local, barber shop in Boquete.  Salon in Panama City … about the same as you’d expect to pay in most places in North America.

You can get a meal at a typical, Panamanian restaurant in Boquete, no frills, basic Panamanian cuisine … i.e. chicken, rice and beans, salad, and banana or for variety banana, salad, rice and beans, and chicken … for around $5.  Or you can enjoy a fantastic meal prepared by a real celebrity chef [David Care] at Retrogusto for around $35 including tax and a drink. That same Retrogusto dinner in North America or Europe would run you around $50 … so, again, it all depends.

Yes, you can see a doctor for a few dollars.  Not co-pay, but actual cost.  And likely back in wherever you can see a doctor for a whole lot less that you are paying, even with insurance, but not a lot of folks moving to Panama are looking to wait in line at a public health clinic to see a doctor, regardless of the savings.  And most people are rather fussy about choosing their doctor.  So … you got it! … it all depends.

Yes, there are folks who live in Panama for $700 to $1,000 a month.  Heck, Panamanian retirees manage to live on $200 to $300 a month!  But the style of living is not going to be what most North Americans are used to back home. If you are willing to live like a lower middle class “local” [Just an observation: many “locals” in Panama are fabulously wealthy!], living in “local” style housing, eating “local” and not being dependent on all your fresh food being packaged in plastic and imported from elsewhere, you can do it, preferably without whining.  But to come all the way to Panama just to struggle to get by?  What’s the point in that?

So why move to Panama?

Helen Tries Out Hammock

The lifestyle is better, healthier and more relaxed.  Panama is rated as one of the happiest countries on earth.  The people are warm and welcoming.  For a tiny squiggle of a nation, Panama has a huge and affordable coastline, great variety, a fascinating history, great ecological variety and beauty.  Where else can you find a New World country with seven living Indigenous groups that were here when Columbus arrived?  It is a progressive democracy with a optimistic outlook and a booming economy.

Panama is a great place to invest.  Foreigners are welcome and the “Friendly Nation Visa” throws out a welcome mat to foreigners who want to live, invest and work in Panama.   Panama has always used the US dollar as its currency although it calls it the “Balboa.”  Most of the world regards the US Dollar as the most stable and secure currency.  David, for example, has grown from a sleepy city lost somewhere in the Province of Chiriqui to the second largest city in the country and is booming with new construction everywhere.  Panama enjoys a unique geographical position in the world and for over 100 years due to the Panama Canal has been the crossroads of the world.  It is being compared to Singapore and Dubai. And it is very easy for foreigners to purchase and own property in Panama.[Investment & Commercial Opportunities]

Panama offers more value for your money. It’s not that Panama is “cheaper” but that it gives you more value for your investment.  The real future for Panama is not for economic refugees looking for cheap, but for people looking for a safe, secure, democratic country with a booming economy where they can invest and get greater return on their investment, while at the same time enjoying a better and healthier lifestyle. [Exceptional Properties]




Death on the Serpent River: How the Lost Girls of Panama Disappeared

Holland girlsEveryone hoped and prayed.

Then everyone grieved.

And finally, everyone eventually had a theory.

Theories ranged from … and this has always been my theory … that the girls, inexperienced and unprepared, headed out late in the afternoon just for a walk, made a wrong turn on the unmarked trails, and found themselves lost and alone at night in the middle of the jungle without a guide, equipment or knowledge.  Scared, without food or shelter, disoriented, after a violent thunderstorm they attempted crossing a raging river and were swept away.  Pretty much as I remember that was the official version as well.  Very believable.

They are not forgotten by folks who lived here when they disappeared.  This afternoon, driving the “Loop” and stopping for coffee at the little coffee shop of our former presidents, we passed the entrance to La Pianista trail, and, as always I remembered the tragic disappearance of “the Dutch girls.”

There are other versions and theories.  One is that the girls met up with some guys they had met in town.  Maybe enjoyed some local drugs, and then, for whatever reason, either by accident or on purpose, the girls died or were murdered and their remains were quickly buried only to be dug up later by jungle animals.  The scuttlebutt on this theory was that of the three guys that many of the younger people in Boquete pinned the crime on, within a few months two had died.  One fell off a cliff, and the other drowned while swimming with friends … viewed generally either as some kind of weird karma, or Panamanian “street justice” … or in this case maybe Chiriqui  “mountain justice.”

Whatever … after an appropriate few months of local mourning, this horrible tragedy was pretty much put out of mind as Boquete returned to tourism, fairs, parades, real estate, picking and drinking coffee.

Now, after all this time, THE DAILY BEAST … quoting one Boquete resident who read the piece, “When I want facts, I go to the Daily Beast. Not.” … THE DAILY BEAST with Chicago writer Jeremy Kryt,  has “called on a team of experts—including authorities on photography, wilderness medicine, and globally famous forensic anthropologist and best-selling author Dr. Kathy Reichs—to provide opinions and analysis on this case.”  [I should disclose in all fairness that my wife has supported Kathy Reichs all these years buying her endless stream of books.]

Using the best skills of Internet journalistic titillation in order to build page views, THE DAILY BEAST will release the story over three Saturdays.  The first installment appeared last Saturday and mainly just set the stage and parroted the shocking opinion that the government went for the “accident” theory just to protect tourism.

Verdict first installment: nothing we don’t already know.  We shall see if it’s a “page turner” for Kathy Reichs or not.  Stay tuned.

Click to read THE DAILY BEAST … which I’ve always thought was a dynamite name for an Internet news rag … Death on the Serpent River: How the Lost Girls of Panama Disappeared.  “Lost Girls of Panama” … such an ominous ring … do I sense a NETFLIX movie coming on?  [Of course it probably won’t be on the Panama version of NETFLIX which has mostly crap and old movies which even airplanes and cruise ships don’t show any more.]

Let’s Not Sell Panama Cheap

No question: some things in Panama are less expensive than they would be in many parts of the world, and in many places where people choose to live in North America. It all depends!

Take housing for example. It may be cheaper in Panama than some places, but it may not be. It all depends! Food, may be cheaper if you’re looking to live and eat like a local and aren’t looking for prepared items or brand name items which have to be imported and hence cost more. True, Panama doesn’t charge you on foreign income, although if you’re from the US believe me the US does charge you, although if your permanent residence is abroad you can deduct a hefty amount of earned income … NOT investment or retirement income.

So … back to housing.

Here’s a rare Boquete property for under $125,000!

BOQUETE Las Trancas furnished $119,000

Keyes 2

Here’s a special opportunity to stake your claim in Boquete with a small, cute, unique, somewhat funky casita, furnished on a 15,640 sq ft [1,453 sq m] lot that is already beautifully landscaped and planted with tropical fruit trees … hold on, partner! … ALL THIS FOR $119,000!

Here’s what $125,000 buys in Texas …

124,000 Texas7741 Los Gatos Dr,
Dallas, TX 75232 – 3 beds 2 baths 1,412 sq ft – $124,900 – Charming and recently updated and remodeled property ready for immediate move in. This home features an open floor plan, laminate floors throughout, large bedrooms, and a two car garage! Large fenced backyard. Convenient location! Lot: 5,009 sqft/

Or Arkansas …

Arkansas1270 Pyramid Dr, Conway, AR 72034 – 3 beds 2 baths 1,260 sqft – $114,900 Recent improvements: new paint throughout, carpet, and kitchen appliances.  Lot: 8,712 sq ft



Or Southern Living in Florida …

Florida4645 SW 122nd Ln,
Lake Butler, FL 32054 –
3 beds 2 baths 1,844 sq ft -$119,900  Home has approximately 2 acres and features three bedrooms and 1 and 1/2 bath recently added. Plumbing and Electrical has been updated. Down stairs features are a Master Bedroom w/ a fireplace, and new recently upgraded spa like Master Bath that over looks a garden. Livingroom with a Fireplace, spacious Kitchen/Dining Combo, with large Laundry Room. Upstairs has split bedrooms and 1/2 bath along with a balcony to over look your front lawn. Home has a workshop and storage shed along with a barn for you livestock.

Even just a train ride from New York City!*

connecticut448 Wayne St,
Bridgeport, CT 06606 –
3 beds 1.5 baths 1,940 sq ft – $114,900  You’d be surprised at what this home has to offer including its lovely layout, perfect location, and more! Interior features an expanded bright living room with a delightful fireplace, impressive sun room filled with lots of lights, charming eat in kitchen, enormous Master Bedroom, two additional big & bright bedrooms, pretty powder room, and a gorgeous hallway bath. Exterior features a massive rear deck and a two car garage.  Lot: 4,538 sqft  [*$13.30 off-peak, weekday fare Bridgeport to Grand Central MTA.]

But who wants to live in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, or the New York urban sprawl?  Point taken.  It’s just that if all you are looking for is cheap, there are lots of places, some, granted, nicer than others … but lots of places where real estate is cheaper and in some ways the overall cost of living may not be that much more than in Panama.

So why Panama?

It’s the quality of life, stupid!  Away from the madness and political and social divide of much of North America.  Clean air!  Healthy food!  An ecological paradise!  Long and beautiful coastlines where ocean front property is still affordable.  Beautiful people!  A laid-back lifestyle.  Rated as one of the happiest countries on the planet.  And it is a democracy, although not without problems still of corruption, but a country that is booming economically, building infrastructure, positive and looking toward an exciting future.

You buy real estate in Panama and you are buying a chunk of the country and its future … something you miss out on if you just rent.  If you’re happy with Texas, or Toronto, or wherever, stay put.  If you’re satisfied with 1 or 2% on your money, stay where you are … or come to Panama and rent and let someone else invest and reap the rewards.

And Panama may well be less expensive while giving you a better quality of life.  For instance, in an area like Boquete with it’s spring-like climate year-round you don’t need heat or air conditioning!  Yes, I can get a haircut for $3 … and it would still be $3 even if I had more hair to cut!  A massage runs $45 an hour.  A ride on the Metro in Panama City is 35 cents.  Car insurance runs about $800 a year, not $800 a month.  And you can still find properties that have many years left on their property tax exemption which you inherit when you buy those properties.