Expat Life In El Cangrejo, Panama City

Panama City’s Rowdiest, Bawdiest Zone

El Cangrejo is our top pick for an urban lifestyle in Panama. Other Panama City neighborhoods can be more affordable (the area around Via Tocumen, for example)…more luxury (Punta Pacifica)…more historic (Casco Viejo)…and more scenic (certainly if your ideal view is of the water…El Cangrejo is not oceanfront).

But no other neighborhood in the Panamanian capital has as much personality. It’d be fair to describe all Panama City as multicultural, but nowhere else is the diversity more apparent than in El Cangrejo. This region at the heart of this city is dense with restaurant options (Italian, French, Swiss, Colombian, Cuban, Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, Argentine, and on and on), small, family-owned businesses (where the proprietors, again, hail from across the globe), and an eclectic expat community, North American, Latin American, European, and Asian, that mingles everywhere and always with their neighbor Panamanians. The expats in El Cangrejo aren’t segregated or separated but fully integrated.

El Cangrejo is also Panama City’s rowdiest, bawdiest zone. It could be called the city’s Red Light District, though no discrete red lights are required to signal the locations of brothels or other sex-industry businesses. Prostitution is legal in Panama, and El Cangrejo is where the trade is largely focused in the country’s capital. This may bother you or be just what you’re in the market for. In the case of the latter, know that the Veneto Hotel and surrounding streets are a good place to hang out. If the case of the former, the Veneto and environs might be a good area to avoid.

In the six years we’ve been living and running our Live and Invest Overseas office in Panama, we’ve moved house four times and office three. This is a small city offering a great diversity of lifestyle experiences, and, to be honest, we’ve had trouble finding our ideal fit here, both personally and professionally. Finally, though, we think we’ve hit on the combination that suits us best. We’re living in a high-rise tower on Avenida Balboa, enjoying views all around of the Bay of Panama, the Pacific Ocean, and the entrance to the Panama Canal…and we’re working from a big old house in El Cangrejo that we’ve reconfigured to provide pleasant office space with loads of personality.

It’s a 10-minute commute (on good days) from our apartment building to our office. We have parking out front and all around. Within a five-minute walk of the office are dozens of lunch and Happy Hour options, plus pharmacies, dry cleaners, banks, gift shops, and hotels where we put up guests and visitors.

Definitely, this is a great place to base yourself as a small business owner, be your business bricks and mortar or virtual like ours. If you’re younger than we, you’d probably also find it a great place to live, as do a half-dozen of our 20-something staff.

One of those 20-somethings, Staff Editor Matt Chilliak, shares his perspective on why he’s chosen to live and work in El Cangrejo, Panama City’s liveliest sector, in the feature report in this month’s Panama Letter issue, in subscribers’ inboxes yesterday. If you’re not yet a Panama Letter reader, you can become one here now in time to read all about our favorite Panama City neighborhood.

Kathleen Peddicord

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