Ten Pitfalls And Perils Of Retiring To Panama
Lind Adams of the United States writes this week to ask:
“Kathleen, could you please address some of the possible pitfalls to watch for when attempting retirement to Panama? With all the vast experience and knowledge you and your staff have, I am sure you could offer some good information on things to be cautious about when making such a move…”
- The people in Panama speak Spanish. Some, especially in Panama City, also speak English, but you can’t count on this. To make your transition less frustrating and your experience in the country more fulfilling, you’re going to need to learn to speak at least a little Spanish.
- Panama City is hot and humid, all year long. Sometimes, miserably so. The good news is that, today, most everywhere you’ll want to go (the shopping malls, the grocery stores, the movie theaters, banks, restaurants, etc.) is air-conditioned. The other good news is that you can escape the heat of Panama City with a trip to the highlands, where the climate is cooler, even chilly.
- Downtown Panama City has received an impressive facelift over the past couple of years, and the new Cinta Costera pedestrian park area that runs through the center of the city and along the Bay of Panama is well-conceived, nicely landscaped, and carefully maintained.
Elsewhere, though, in the capital, the neighborhoods are much more Third World. Remember, Panama City is a developing country. Its infrastructure is without peer in the region, and this country is working aggressively to improve itself in every possible way. Still, again, this isn’t the First World. Expect poverty, garbage, and broken sidewalks.
- Latinos, including Panamanians, are loud. They like loud music, late-night parties, and any excuse to set off a round of firecrackers.
- Panama has no national, to-your-door mail delivery service. You’ll have to arrange to have your mail forwarded to you from a mail-forwarding service.
- It’s nearly impossible to find a good road map of Panama City or a reliable map of any part of this country. I don’t know why, but there you are.
- Most streets are not sign-posted, and many don’t have names at all (as far as we’ve been able to figure out). This may help to explain point #6…
- In this part of the world, time is a very fluid concept. Mañana, for example, does not mean tomorrow. It means sometime in the future…maybe. The plumber who promises to return “mañana” to finish the repairs to your leaking faucet may, in fact, be back tomorrow, but you’ll find life much less frustrating if you don’t take this kind of promise too literally. I’ve learned to believe no one when it comes to scheduling (of repairs, of meetings, of deliveries). This way, if someone or something shows up at the discussed time, I’m pleasantly surprised.
- Panama, like most of the world, has no Multiple Listing Service. This requires an important adjustment in your approach to any property search.
- Panama does, on the other hand, have bugs, snakes, spiders, and dengue fever. You will be bitten by mosquitoes and other insects in this country. If you spend any time in the jungle, you’ll likely see a snake. I was bitten last year by a poisonous spider and had to spend a half-day in the Emergency Room on an IV. Our housekeeper Olga was stricken with dengue last month. She was seriously ill for two weeks but is now fully recovered.