Panama City, Panama Report of what it's like to live there - 10/10/18
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?
No, I have also lived in Turkey, Mexico, and Thailand.
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?
DC in the US. I am no longer required to fly through MIA! I can take the direct flight to DC w/USG
3. How long have you lived here?
Two plus years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Plentiful options, though groceries are more expensive than in the U.S.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Take-out is not that great, but the general sushi/pizza options exist and are pretty good.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Regular mosquitos, snakes, and insects.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I pay US$650 (average is around $550) for full-time, live-in nanny help. Many find the requirements (social security, severance pay) to be cumbersome here.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gym in the embassy, some okay gyms nearby
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?
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Definitely helpful to know Spanish.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, but most people drive.
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?
SUV for potholes and occasionally flooded streets.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
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?
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?
There are a few EPAP and other employment options in the area. Some are successful telecommuting or traveling occasionally back to the US for work (MIA/DC). Don't know anyone finding the right salary match on the local economy.
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?
Business casual at the embassy.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I've found this post very safe!
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
People talked about Zika for a while but that conversation seems to have died down. Good quality medical care here.
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. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Lots of rain (almost daily for nine months) can hamper the lifestyle.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Lots of school choice! My little ones go to a local Spanish-speaking school. Most go to Balboa, Metropolitan, or the Int'l School. People seem happy with their respective choices.
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, I pay about US$400-600 per kid for pre-k
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there are local sports options (ballet, tennis, soccer, flag football).
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large American expat.
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?
Many Community Liaison Office (CLO) activities are organized for the embassy community. There are also SUP clubs, crossfit gyms, art classes, and really anything you want to focus on here, you probably can.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Definitely better for families. The city is very small.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I'd say medium. Not a huge scene, but certainly not condemned.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Some fun overnight beach excursions, travel to Colombia, getting to know the cute little old town area.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Beaches in Chame, Westin Playa Bonita, Pipa's beach, Portobelo beaches and little town, hiking around.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
If you're into molas that's a thing here, there are some nice natural woven things (masks and baskets), some beaded necklaces and bracelets.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Safe, close to the US, very livable, good for kids.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
It's really not close to the beach: one and a half hours minimum. Panamanians seemed to me to be a bit colder when compared to others in LatAm countries.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, good for kids who learned Spanish while here, life has been slow, low, and not too stressful.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunblock and bug spray and grocery money.