Panama City - Post Report Question and Answers
What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartment downtown. Most of these buildings are high rises, which makes for busy streets filled with cars. Noise-cancelling windows are extremely rare, so even on the 30th floor, you can hear the traffic. Commute times have been altered dramatically since telework and unemployment have reduced the number of cars on the street. Panama City dwellings are dominated by apartments, and closer to the office there are houses in gated communities. Because of the climate, structures and facades seem to deteriorate fast. The pandemic has altered key drivers for living in buildings. For instance, gyms and swimming pools, along with community centers, have been closed for prolonged periods and capacity limits have been rolled back considerably. This is a key consideration when deciding between a house and a building which at first may seem very promising but may end up offering less than expected. - Dec 2021
House in suburbs, on the darker size, but is a nice safe neighborhood. Nothing amazing, but certainly adequate. Some in the 'burbs live with lovely amenities, others with larger houses in nicer neighborhoods, but all within close range of the embassy. Those who wish to can live in downtown apartments, though there is generally nothing cute in those neighborhoods and the commute can be 45 minutes plus, but to each his/her own. - Oct 2018
We love our house. It is the normal size house for the US: three bedrooms but with four and a half bathrooms. We live in Albrook Gardens and there is a real sense of community in the neighborhood. It is safe to walk at night or early morning, it is well lit with 24 hour security. It is the oldest housing area for the embassy pool, with infrastructure problems, but it is close to the embassy, small to medium-sized yards, and bigger spaces than may be available in downtown apartments.
Each house is unique and some are larger or more spacious than others, but all are adequate. If you are a family with one to two people and want a house close to the embassy, some of the houses here are small enough to accommodate that size limitation, but then of course, the rooms are smaller than someone may prefer. The embassy does a good job of meeting the requested area for incoming employees: if you want downtown you will likely get it (with a longer commute) and if you want close to the embassy, you will likely get it (with fewer resources close by). - Sep 2018
Worst housing I've ever been in. Small houses with little or no yard and no curtains or curtain allowance provided so you have to buy your own. - May 2017
BIG apartment downtown with ocean views. We are a kid-less family and have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, plus a maid's quarters w/bathroom. Apartments downtown are a mix of some older buildings and brand new buildings. We are in an older one, but it's still really nice. Our kitchen could use more counter space, but some of the newer additions to the housing pool have really great kitchens.
Downtown living is close to the Cinta Costera - the coastal "boardwalk" with bike/running paths, exercise equipment, shaved ice sellers, etc. Also usually within walking distance of grocery stores or small markets. Commute to the Embassy takes anywhere from 15 minutes with no traffic to an hour plus with major traffic and rain. Average commute is about 30-35 minutes.
Housing near the Embassy is mostly small, older houses in gated communities. Good for families. Usually it's less of a commute, but not always. - Mar 2017
Mostly small houses or townhouses with very small yards and some compounds. Housing is configured so that you have no privacy at all. Also not all the rooms (or even bathrooms) are curtained, and the embassy won't give you a curtain allowance or provide you with curtains. So you have to go out of pocket. Apartments are spacious. Embassy Maintenance here is horribly slow and they don't follow up on work orders. - Oct 2015
- We live in a gated community close to work and school in a suburban area where beautiful birds fly over our heads sometimes. Love the neighbors. However, you need the world of patience when things need fixing in the house. The number of visits of technicians and the length of time to fix things, their lack of knowledge and expertise is something we never experienced in any other country. This affected my morale significantly. - Downtown/city is not far in terms of distance but takes a while to get there because of traffic. - Jun 2015
There are both houses and apartments available, although due to skyrocketing rents, there are now more apartments than houses. If one is housed in the former canal zone located near the Embassy, the commute is between 5-15 minutes, although it can be more due to traffic. The main road is only two lanes and traffic can back up quickly. For those traveling from Costa del Este or Punta Pacifica, the commute is between 45 minutes to an hour and half depending on the time of day. - May 2015
My house is nice but it has absolutely no privacy. The Embassy does not provide privacy curtains so everyone can see into all windows in the house (yes, also the bathroom!). I ended up buying tools and installed my own black-out curtains at an inversion of about US$700 for a house in which I will live only 2 years. - Sep 2014
Housing depends on your budget but you can find nice houses or modern apartments depending on what you want. Commute time can take a while if you live downtown and work near the canal, for example. Traffic is not the best in the capital. - Jul 2014
There are apartments and single-family homes and townhomes in an area close to the Embassy (Albrook and Clayton) and apartments in the downtown area (Paitilla and along the Cinta Costera) and farther out (Costa del Este). Then there are apartments between the downtown area and the Embassy (El Dorado/Dos Mares). I highly recommend staying away from the El Dorado/Dos Mares apartments, they look like they're in a nice area but they're actually in an area that's very dangerous for driving (at the top of a steep hill with a narrow road and a blind curve), you hear all the road noise from hundreds of feet below, they aren't fire safe (one exit and one stairwell on the 27th floor), they're isolated from the rest of the Embassy community, there are no areas for children to play and it's hard to walk anywhere outside of the complex. - Mar 2014
There are many great areas to live in Panama, but you need to take heavy traffic into consideration. The city has great buildings with terrific views, as does "Costa del Este". But depending on where you work the traffic can be horrendous. Many ex-pats live in Clayton or Albrook where the US Embassy, many NGO's, and many international schools are located. These areas are suburban, but have sidewalks and parks and less traffic. - Jan 2013
There are two options for the most par: apartments in the the Marbella/Patilla downtown area and single family houses near the Embassy. Near the embassy are gated communities that are far from services but are very quiet and you may be able to see some tropical birds in the morning. The commute is 5-10 minutes. The downtown area is farther away but you will not need to rely on your car as much when not commuting to work or going to further away neighborhoods. Some families with small children live in the downtown area and they seem happy. The commute is 15-40 minutes. - Sep 2011
Housing has been difficult in the US Embassy community, but is getting better. Housing near the embassy is OK, but that limits your options for getting around. I live on Avenida Balboa and would recommend it as a nice mid-point. Avoid Punta Paitilla (horrible traffic) and Costa Del Este (too far out, unless you are part of US Agriculture´s bug project). - Apr 2010
good housing, commute time is 20 minutes - Dec 2009
There are many large homes in our area. Most of them are old homes left over from the Americans. Man have been restored nicely, others not as nice. We live in a new home. Workmanship is very poor and not nearly as good as the quality you expect being that prices are so high now. We live about 10 minutes from downtown, depending on traffic of course. - May 2008
Housing in Costa Del Este is nice but not worth the more than one hour it takes to commute to the Embassy in stop and go traffic; this with paying the toll fare of US$1.25. - Apr 2008