Panama City, Panama Report of what it's like to live there - 10/21/15
Personal Experiences from Panama City, Panama
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Miami is about a 3-hour flight.
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Work for USG.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost everything is available here at higher than U.S. prices. Imported meat is VERY expensive.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
ALL of them! Lots of good restaurants, too. Costs are more than in the U.S.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We haven't had any ants and just a few roaches, but apparently that is a big problem. If you have a yard, snakes and poisonous toads and frogs can be a problem.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
FedEx, DPO, APO, and "Mailboxes are us".
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available but expensive with lots of bennies to pay.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, and the embassy also has a gym.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Some cash machines don't give you your money but still deduct it from your account. Use only inside inside ones at a recommended location.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber! And safe radio taxis. And also a new metro.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Anything is okay unless you plan on going touring on bad roads.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and it is pretty good! 15MB for under 30$
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
C&W pre-paid cell service is the cheapest we've found so far. Buy an unlocked phone from the U.S., though, unless you just want voice service.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Getting pets into Panama is a pain in the butt. There is a quarantine unless you are with the embassy, but even then it is still a pain. Once here, you will find good pet care and kennels.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
At the embassy it's good.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It varies at work. In public, shorts are acceptable.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Like everywhere else, there are certain areas you don't go to. But generally it is quite safe here.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
A lot of people get sick with a severe kind of cold that can hang on for a while.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and Humid all the time, with a lot of rain added in during rainy season.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most are very good I've heard.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, and there are a few good ones.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is large in Panama -- people from all over. The U.S. Embassy is medium-sized, and morale is low to good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Day or weekend beach trips, tourism, dining, diving, BBQs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for all.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Beach resorts, BBQs.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Diving, beaches, beach resorts, touring the countryside, dining.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
7. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
If I'd have known about all the housing issues I may not have come.