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During a 6-day 7-night all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tours, we go in to great details (including special tips) about shipping household goods, cars and pets to Panama. Here’s an overview of important information you need to know if you’re thinking about shipping anything to Panama.
SHIPPING HOUSEHOLD GOODS TO PANAMA
Most people do not ship household goods or cars to Panama because it is so expensive. This month I obtained quotes from several international moving companies and it would cost $9,000 to $15,000 to ship a 40-foot container from the United States. A 20-foot container is about 20% less. If you live in Canada, the cost will be a little more. It is expensive to ship your household goods to Panama and that’s why most people move to Panama with a few suitcases or they ship 5 to 10 boxes instead of a container.
The costs difference depends on how close you are to a port and which mover you select.
The other problem with shipping your household goods to Panama is that many rentals (and homes for sale) come completely furnished so you’ll have a very limited selection of places to move to with all your household goods. A landlord will not move their furniture out of the house so you can move your furniture in so you’ll need to find a rental that is not furnished. If you have large furniture, it may not fit in Panama houses. If you insist on shipping a container to Panama, you will need to come to Panama in advance to find a house that your household goods can be moved to.
Another thing to take consideration when shipping a container is if the moving company will be able to get a shipping container to your property. In some parts of Panama, it would be completely impossible to get a shipping container anywhere near the house. The road could be too narrow or too steep, the road may be a dirt road, or it may be impossible to get the shipping container up or down your driveway. The moving company can transfer your household goods to a smaller truck then make multiple trips to your house but there will be an extra expense for this service.
A good example…my house is at the bottom of a steep driveway at a narrow turn on the road. If I had shipped a container to Panama, it would be necessary for the truck to park on the road about 100 yards away from my driveway entry. Then they would have to use a dolly to go down my steep driveway to get to my house. It is estimated that it would cost an extra $3,000 to $5,000 because the shipping container cannot get down my driveway to my house.
Some household items will not hold up well to the humidity in Panama. Some areas of Panama get much more humidity than others. Leather furniture, purses and shoes don’t hold up well in Panama. Books do not hold up well to humidity and will start smelling moldy.
Houses in Panama are built with cement blocks because there is a problem with termites who love to eat wood. If you bring furniture made with soft woods like pine or oak, you will need to treat the furniture often to prevent termites from eating the wood. Hard woods like teak and cedar do better in Panama. In Panama, most cabinets and doors are made with hard woods like Cedro (similar to cedar) to prevent termite damage.
Some international movers are a bit more affordable, but I know people who used the cheapest company they could find to ship two 40-foot containers. One container never arrived in Panama and the other container had a lot of things missing.
Instead of shipping ALL your household goods, you might consider shipping 5 to 10 boxes using one of the mail forwarding companies in the area you move to. Most of the mail forwarding companies charge about $4 a pound.
When you come on a Panama Relocation Tour, we will give you information on the best international movers and also take you to shopping centers so you can see what’s available in Panama and what the costs are like. This will help you decide what to ship and what to buy in Panama. You can buy just about anything you need or want in Panama.
When I rented my house in Panama, I knew it needed new bedspreads, cookware, towels, sheets, shower curtains, and decorations on the walls. But instead of shipping those things to Panama, I purchased them in Panama which saved a lot of money!
My husband wanted to ship all his tools to Panama. But he discovered that all the tools he needed are available in Panama and, even better, you can hire a local handyman to fix things for you for a super affordable price so it’s not necessary to ship tools to Panama. A good example… I recently hired a handyman to build and to install a fountain in my garden for $60.
For the $15,000 it could cost to ship your household goods, you can buy a LOT of stuff in Panama!
SHIPPING A CAR OR MOTORCYCLE TO PANAMA
It will cost about $3500 to $5,000 to ship your car to Panama. If there is a lien (loan) on the car, you’ll need to either pay it off or get permission from the lender to take the car out of the country. Once the car arrives in Panama, you have 30 days to get it re-registered as a Panama car which will cost about $1500. Failure to get your car re-registered will result in it getting impounded. [Read more…]
One of the biggest concerns that people have about relocating to Panama is not knowing Spanish. Don’t let the lack of knowing Spanish stop you from enjoying a more stress-free and affordable life in Panama. There are places where you can live in Panama and do just fine with very limited (or no) Spanish.
Some areas of Panama have a higher concentration of expats who speak English. In these areas, more Panamanians speak English so it easier to start out, at least initially, in an area with plenty of expats because it will make your transition to life in Panama easier. In the expat communities, you’ll find that some restaurant menus are in Spanish and English, people at the bank speak English, doctors speak English and even signs at the grocery store are in Spanish and English. In expat communities, there will always be someone close by who is bi-lingual who can help with translations if necessary.
But, even in the expat communities, it is good to learn basic Spanish phrases. You’ll find that the more you are around Spanish speakers, the more Spanish you will learn!
If you move to an area where there are not many tourists or expats, there will be only a few Panamanians who speak English because they have not been exposed to, or had the need to know, English. In these areas, you’ll need to learn more Spanish faster.. keep reading to learn how!
So, you moved to Panama and you are getting settled into you very first rental. You are unpacking, you are walking around your town and finding out where the grocery stores are, where the restaurants are, and most important, where the closest place is where you can sit down and order an ice cold beer (or margarita). There will probably be several places like this and there will be other expats there who you can chat with!
Learning Spanish is high on your priority list, but first things first. Your suitcases needs to be unpacked, and you must buy food to put in the refrigerator so you can cook something this week! When you move to Panama, where Spanish is the official language, it could present some new challenges – but they are easy to overcome!
With that in mind, these are some basic things you will need to know to communicate and function in Panama that first month. The first chart has a few words and basic phrases that will make your first month in Panama a little easier.
If Panamanians see you trying to speak even a little Spanish (even if you butcher it) and you have a big smile, they will do everything they can to help you communicate. They sincerely appreciate that you are trying.
THE FAST TRACK TO SPEAKING AND UNDERSTANDING SPANISH
To get a head start in Spanish before you arrive in Panama, I recommend Gary A. Scotts $79 Online Spanish Course. Gary’s amazing course will help you learn 17 little tricks which will help you learn 4,000 Spanish words in your first week in Panama. Then, he teaches you connector words to make it easy for you to communicate. Even if it is not a complete sentence, you will be able to get your point across and you’ll understand what Spanish speakers are saying to you.
SEE DETAILS ABOUT GARY SCOTT’S $79 ONLINE SPANISH CLASS HERE
I was fortunate to go to Gary’s live 3-day class when it was taught in Panama. By the end of the first day, everyone in the class was speaking, reading and writing in Spanish! In addition to the 17 “tricks”, Gary uses special “super learning” techniques to help you learn faster and comprehend what you learn easier.
Retiring early was not the plan! When Nancy and Sam Clawson came on a Panama Relocation Tour in September, they were investigating various places to retire to in a few years. But destiny had other plans for them!
During the tour, we show 1-2 rentals in each area we visit so you can get an idea of what a Panama house looks like. When we were in Volcan, we saw this cute $750 a month furnished two bedroom two bath rental..it even has a hot tub! I was walking next to Nancy as we walked up to the house and she said , “I think we just found our next home“. It gets even better….
The owners of the house had an older dog and expressed their concern about shipping the dog back to the USA. Surprisingly, the dog looked exactly like a dog Nancy and Sam had who had passed away a few months before. The Volcan dog was instantly attracted to Nancy. So, Nancy said they would keep the dog! They signed a lease that day and move to Panama a month later!
The lower cost of living in Panama allowed Sam and Nancy to retire early. Watch this video to learn what they like about living in Panama, what their challenges have been, what their cost of living is, and what they miss about the US.