Panama City, Panama Report of what it's like to live there - 12/30/09
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, Kingston Jamaica, Stockholm Sweden and Nairobi Kenya
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?
VA 5 hours
3. How long have you lived here?
1 1/2 years currently there
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?
good housing, commute time is 20 minutes
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
can get most things you need but will have to pay more for them
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
specialty foods or any item you HAVE to have
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonals, Burger King, Popeyes, KFC and recently Taco Bellprices are similar to the US
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
have to use a mail service out of Miami (Mail boxes etc is a good one)
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
local help is easy to find (if you speak Spanish) and is fairly cheap. A full time housekeeper is around $250 to $300 for a month
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
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?
you can use them here, but must be very careful since there is a lot of credit card fraud
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an English service at the Catholic Church and 2 other non denominational churches
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
yes they are available. You have to have cable to get English TV and it will cost about $50 a month
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
While it is possible to get around without Spanish in Panama City (although very difficult) it is impossible once you leave town
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Lots, the city is not handicapped accessable at all
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
some taxis are safe, local buses are not safe
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?
large cars are fine to drive but very hard to park
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I have 2meg and my cable/tv bill is about $100 a month
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
several choices here not as cheap as in the US, you only pay for outgoing calls but pay for all texts, incoming and outgoing
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?
they are supposed to be quarantined in the house for 40 days
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
the vets are pretty good here. They are limited in the specialty service you would find in the US. There are very few kennels that would meet American standards
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?
not many jobs on the local economy due to wages paid here
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
moderate security concerns (seems to be getting worse though)
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
good quality when you get there, very few ambulances in country and have to be on a paid service plan for them to take you
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, rains a couple hours a day for 9 months a year
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
3 schools most families use, International School of Panama, Balboa Academy and Christian Cross Roads
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
not very many programs here
3. 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, in English and Spanish
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
some soccer programs and american football has recently started
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
decent size can find someone if you want to, but can also go for days without seeing anyone
2. Morale among expats:
depends on the day but overall it is ok
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
lots of clubs and casinos
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
good for families, couples and single males, most single women complain about the lack of dating opportunities
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
heard it is ok
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
active night life, lots of casinos, plenty of beaches within an hour drive
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
some local craft items including taguas
9. Can you save money?
yes if you don't travel back to the US often
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
yes, schools are a little weak, but not bad
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
winter clothes!! hot and humid most of the year
3. But don't forget your:
umbrella as it rains for a couple hours a day for 9 months out of the year
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
if you have any dietary needs or special medical needs, make sure to bring everything with you~