Insights On Living In Panama From Valentine Fouche

From Paris To Panama City—Valentine’s Awesome New Life In The Tropics

I’ll admit I knew little about Panama before I arrived in the country—and not even about that guy who faked his death in a canoe. (If you haven’t heard that one, don’t worry. I’ll share more details later.)

I’d heard, of course, about the furious pace of construction in Panama City over the past decade-and-a-half. So I expected to land on a building site surrounded by incredible noise.

Instead, where those cranes once dominated the sky, I found blocks of dazzling new skyscrapers. And the noise… it was no more than I was used to in Paris. Panama City is up-and-running and completely open for business.

My point is: No matter how much you read up about a place in advance, being on the ground is entirely different.

So, for those of you that are toying with the idea of Panama, I’d like to share a few insights with you about what life is really like here in the hub of the Americas.

Not about the canal expansion (almost complete)… the current state of the economy (still very strong)… or the local political scene (you get enough of that back home). Those things are important, yes… but they’re not what will ultimately affect your day-to-day experience in the city… out at the beach… or tucked away on the Azuero peninsula.

If you’re moving anywhere to live part- or full-time, you want a place that gives you a good lifestyle… with options, say, to swim, dive, surf, golf, dine out, enjoy a cappuccino while you watch the crowds go by, catch a live jazz performance… whatever it is that you enjoy most in your leisure time.

If you’re investing in property (without any plans to settle overseas just yet), you want to be sure you’re investing somewhere people are going to come and hang around a while…

Panama fulfills on all of these counts. And then some.

Since moving to the city almost a year ago, I’m out enjoying the beaches two weekends of every month. For me, one of the best things about this country is being surrounded by nature. You don’t have to go far outside the city to appreciate it… and the weather is almost always on your side. Here, I get to live more outdoors—hiking in the hills or playing a round of golf.

And what noise? I live just 15 minutes outside the city center, up on a hill, without shops or cars. We’re surrounded by trees, without any of the noise or pollution I faced in Paris. Every morning, as I eat breakfast before work, I’m entertained by at least 15 different species of birds and some monkeys playing around my terrace.

Life is healthier here, too. Back in Paris, I’d fork out 4 euros for a bland piece of fruit in plastic wrap. Here, I buy the most colorful and tasty pineapples and mangos imaginable—directly from the producer—for just 50 cents.

For entertainment in the city, Casco Viejo (the old quarter) is where I like to hit. With its narrow streets and old colonial buildings, it has an incredible number of bars and bistros, as well as plenty of options for live music. One of my favorite after-work spots is Jeronimo, a bar and art gallery where you can enjoy some of the best cocktails in the city surrounded by modern art exhibitions.

I’m happy to have chosen the city as my home in Panama. I’m close to the Live and Invest Overseas office—and, as I travel often, it’s easy to get to the airport. But Panama City is just one dimension of this extremely diverse country…

Just over an hour southwest of the city, you reach the stretch of “City Beaches.” Coronado—the first you’ll meet along this stretch—has developed into a self-sufficient beach town. You’ll find pretty much everything you need to live and be entertained here day-to-day without having to trek into the city. It also has a growing population of U.S. expats and retirees…

Then there’s the Azuero Peninsula. The eastern side of this landmass is well-populated. The town of Las Tablas is a favorite with many expats—and also a mecca for party-goers when Carnaval rolls around each year.

But for a real escape to the beach (and the best of nature), you need to go west. Small developments are starting to pop up on Azuero’s western coast, infrastructure is being put in place, and the prices are still very affordable. If you come to see Panama for yourself, I’d urge you to check out this little-known opportunity for yourself.

Valentine Fouché
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential