- 1. What about a visa?
- 2. What is the most important real estate advice you would give me?
- 3. How can I ship my car and household goods?
- 4. What about buying furniture and appliances in Panama?
- 5. Is there anything like a Home Depot?
- 6. What about shopping for clothes?
- 7. Grocery Stores
- 8. How can I safely send and receive mail in Panama?
- 9. Can I get a job in Panama?
- 10. How can I get around Panama City and get all the things I need?
- 11. What about meeting fellow Americans?
- 12. What are some other good sources of quality, up-to-date info about moving to and living in Panama?
1. What about visas?
Citizens from the US, Canada and the European Union can stay 180 days on their tourist visa. You get that visa automatically when you go thru Panamanian immigration. You can renew it by going to another country and reentering. The most inexpensive way is to go to neighboring Costa Rica by bus for a day and then come back.
For a permanent residency, there are several options. If you can prove a minimum of $1000.00 in monthly income from overseas, you can get a Retirement (pensionado) visa regardless of your age.
There's also a visa for those who want to start a business in Panama. Only $5000.00 in a Panamamian bank is necessary. You"ll need to consult with a reputable lawyer to understand the details of this law and get this visa.
More options: A visa for persons who purchase a home, mortgage free for $200,000, a Reforestation Visa which requires a $40,000 investment in a reforestation project and an Investors visa which requires you deposit $300,000 in a bank account.
After 3 years of any of these visas, you can apply for permanent residency. Your spouse and underage children dependents are eligible for a residential visa under your visa.
2. What is the most important real estate advice you can give me?
Attend ex-pat meetings to get advice on good real estate buys and trustworthy professionals to hire. Meet with the various ex-pat groups in different parts of the country. Don't listen to just one person's opinion about something. Get several perspectives on the same topic.
We recommend you rent a home or apartment and live 3-6 months in the place you're interested in moving to. That way you can be sure you want to make the move.
Finally, whatever you do that involves legal work, be sure you retain a reputable lawyer. Beware of people offering to help unless they come with several impeccable recommendations. There are some stories about foreigners who got swindled by a "wonderful Panamanian with lots of high level connections " who offered to help them.
Panama doesn't have a multi-listing system. To get an idea of home prices and house rentals, this is an excellent website that has real estate listings: Encuentra24. Use the Panama site in English. Both owners and agencies post listings of their properties there. Many of the prices are wishful thinking but it will give you an idea of what things cost.
For a lawyer, use one of the law firms listed on our Legal Services page or a law firm that is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce. You can also listen to the advice of other ex-pats who recommend lawyers but the best guarantee is to work with a lawyer that belongs to a reputable firm. The main reason we emphasize this is that if you get into trouble because you have an incompetent or crooked lawyer, you can't resolve things quickly like in the States. Panama's legal system is very slow and complicated.
Visit our Relocation Services page for more helpful services.
3. How can I ship my car and household goods?
Ship from any shipping company in the USA—Panama is a close and convenient port. Many people can put all their household goods and even their car in one 40 foot container. The container can be loaded right in front of your house in the States and brought to the front of your house in Panama.
There are no import taxes on importation of your household goods. (There is some rule that there is no tax on up to $10,000.00 worth of household goods but no one is going to be able to say exactly how much all your used household goods are worth.)
For your car, it can be put in your container or shipped separately. Whether you are a Retiree or not, taxes will apply for your car.
For customs entry and processing your goods and car once they arrive, you must hire a customs broker who will get things out for you and arrange shipping to your home—the charge is reasonable.
4. What about buying furniture and appliances in Panama?
No problem. Prices are comparable to US prices, but don't expect any sales. For moderate prices the some good places are Furniture City in Panama City and David, and Collin's in Albrook Mall. For bargains, find inexpensive furniture and household items in Albrook Mall, PriceSmart (very similar to a Price Cotsco ) and Titan department stores. "PriceSmart" (Panama's name for Price Costco} is an excellent for appliances. TV's and some furniture.
On Via Espana, Home Center has modern furniture at moderate prices and Econo Precios has a limited selection of less expensive furniture. If cost is not of concern, there are several upscale furniture stores in the business district
At Furniture City you can order pieces from US catalogs if you don't find what you like on the floor.
For appliances, try Price Mart first. For a larger selection go to Panafoto in Albrook Mall and on Calle 50 have the best selection. Best not to buy refrigerators or other appliances with high tech digital stuff. Power black outs, not uncommon in Panama, can throw these delicate systems out of order—and cost hundreds to fix if you don't use a surge protector. We recommend sturdy American brands like Whirlpool and Frigidaire.
6. What about shopping for clothes
There are plenty of clothing stores in the various malls in Panama City. Nevertheless, men don't seem to have much trouble but women might want to buy clothes on trips to the States. Unless you shop at the upscale department store like Felix B. Maduro, which carries Liz Claiborne and other better American brands clothes, it can be hard to find the right the clothes size. Clothes made here don't fit Americans so well. The Albrook Mall has Gap and Banana Republic stores, but the prices are 30% higher than the States.
Dorian's in Albrook Mall is the best place for discounted American women's clothes and shoes. You have to hunt, but you will find well known American brands at 30-50% discounts. Super Deportes and Flow are good options for beach-wear, but the prices will be the same as the States/
7. Grocery Stores:
Panama has by far the best American-style supermarkets in Latin America. Riba Smith, El Rey, Super 99 are very similar to an American super market. Riba Smith with 4 stores, all in Panama City, is popular with Americans because it has the most American brands and specialty items. You'll love their house brand of prepared foods. Delicious. Try the the chicken pot pie and lasagna. They have their own bakery. We love their multi-cereal bread! El Rey has stores in almost every neighborhood in the city, as well as in Coronado and David. Super 99 is the least expensive
8. Can I safely send and receive mail in Panama?
The Panamanian mail system is not reliable- we don't recommend it for anything. Fortunately there are two excellent companies dedicated receiving and sending your mail as well as bringing stuff you have ordered over the internet etc: Air Box Express and Mail Boxes Etc. Airbox Express delivers your mail and packages directly to your home. Mail Boxes receives them at the offices where you can go pick them up. They'll give your own PO Box address in Miami where you can have things sent to and they'll bring your mail from Miami to Panama for a starting fee of about $25 a month. These mail services are invaluable for life in Panama. For more info see Air Box Express.
9. Can I get a job in Panama?
The best way to work in Panama is to set up your own business. It's difficult to be hired by a Panamanian company in part because they have quotas of how many foreigners they can hire. There are also laws forbidding foreign lawyers, doctors, translators, university professors etc. to work here. Panama's booming economy needs more skilled persons, but for now it is not easy to be hired here.
10. How can I get around Panama City and get all the things I need?
For the newly arrived, Panama City traffic is chaotic and not easy to get around by car. You can hire a taxi driver to take you around- but some caveats. It is generally very safe but some rules: Never get in a taxi where there's another person besides the driver. Avoid night time if possible. Also it works best in you speak some Spanish.
For stress-free and fun shopping, if you can, we recommend you hire a personal driver with fluent English. Judy Tovar of Easy Travel Panama is a great choice. Contact Judy at: email: firstname.lastname@example.org/Cell Phone: 507.6617-4122
11. What about meeting fellow Americans?
There are several excellent organizations for Americans and others. There's a Newcomers Club, Who's New Panama for women (contact 399.3499), the Young Expats in Panama (YEP). The American Society has paid for mix and meet events. Call Joy at 6747.6762. www.amsoc.org
In Boquete there's a monthly expat meeting. Boquete and the Coronado Beach area has well organized ex-pat groups.
If you are a businessman, join the American Chamber of Commerce. It is a great place to network and learn the ropes from fellow American and Panamanian businessmen.
What are some other good sources of quality, up-to-date about moving to and living in Panama?
One the best ways to get quick, usually quality info is to join Yahoo's group "Americans Living in Panama".
People who live here answer the questions of others living here or thinking about living here. It's free and the info and discussions go straight to your email.