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Have you ever wondered what happens if you have an emergency when you live in Panama? What if you need to call the police, fire department or need an ambulance but don’t speak Spanish?
There is a 911 service in Panama, but the emergency operator will probably only speak Spanish. And there is a special “tourist police” emergency number, 511 9260, but it is primarily for Panama City.
TO THE RESCUE…
Some, but not all, communities in Panama have a private bi-lingual emergency number you can call 24 hours a day to get the help you need. These are usually paid subscriptions services. The small fee is worth the peace of mind to know you always have someone you can call when you need the police, fire department, ambulance or even roadside assistance.
In Boquete I subscribe to an emergency service that is $80 a year. Members log in to their website to enter your contact information, directions to your house (many houses do not have an address), list of medications, your doctor’s information, emergency contact both locally and internationally, and even pet sitter information. Once you enter your information, you are assigned a number. If you have an emergency, you just tell the operator your number and what kind of help you need, like “I’m number 1234 and I need an ambulance.” The emergency service company has instant access to directions to my house so they can give it to the ambulance, police or fire department. The bi-lingual operator will stay on the line with you until help arrives and they will notify your emergency contacts.
If you are moving to Panama with pre-existing health problems, you should consider living in an area where a private bi-lingual emergency service is available. You should also take in to consideration where the closest 24-hour hospital is located… just in case.
Last weekend, in Boquete, a friend’s husband went for a short walk. He has dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He got disoriented and could not find his home. He had no idea where he lived or how to get there so he just kept walking and walking. Someone saw him and offered to give him a ride and help find his family. Luckily, there is a free email service where they could send out 1 email and it goes to thousands of people in Panama who have subscribed.
They sent out a message that they had my friend’s husband and where looking for his family. They gave a contact number. When I saw the message, I immediately called his wife who had been frantically looking for her husband for more than 2 hours. They were united a few minutes later.
This valuable service can be used when a pet is lost, a family member has not been heard from, and it is also used to notify the community of upcoming events. This email service is also used to notify the community about storms or rip tides in certain areas.
WHEN THINGS GET BAD….
Some communities in Panama also have hospice and free short-term healthcare help after a surgery, including hospital beds, walkers plus volunteers who bring food, get you to follow up doctor visits, and assist with recovery.
In addition, each Embassy has a person assigned to each province to assist people from that country. These volunteers are called wardens. If, Heaven forbid, you should get put in jail or get in a car accident, the warden for your Embassy will be notified so they can offer assistance to you.
YOUR NEW FAMILY…
When you move to Panama, you will quickly make a lot of new friends (expats and Panamanians) who you can call if you need help too. The friends in your new community are like a new family. But it’s also comforting to know that there are so many different ways you can get help when needed.
If you are thinking of moving overseas, it is important to investigate what kind of emergency services are available to you. As you can see, Panama has many different systems in place to help foreigners in emergency situations.
It’s a big decision to move overseas. There are so many unknowns so we know it helps to get answers to some of your questions in advance during our monthly Q & A Conference Calls. Of course, you will get MUCH MORE information during a 6-day all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour. SEE MORE INFORMATION HERE
Click on the link below to listen to the May 2018 Q & A Conference Call about living in Panama.
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How customs and traditions are typically observed in Panama
Panama LOVES to party. Their many national and public holidays offer an excellent opportunity to take time off work and party… hardy! Loud music until the wee hours of the morning usually go along with Panama holidays. When you live in Panama, you need to learn to plan your life around Panama’s holidays.
Dia Feriado is the Spanish phrase for holiday. Due to its diversity, Panama celebrates an interesting mix of cultural and religious holidays. Some provinces have their own unique celebrations, too, so be sure to check into those if you’re interested.
Panama may observe holidays a little differently from your home country. Here’s an overview of some of the customs:
- When national holidays fall on a weekend, workers will have the following Monday off with pay. November is the heaviest month for holidays and businesses may want to plan accordingly by scheduling less work and more vacations during this time. If there is one “work day” between a holiday and a weekend, many employees will take that day off (whether scheduled or not!).
- Banks, government offices, schools and some businesses are closed. ATM machines often run out of funds, so plan ahead if you’ll require cash.
- The sale of alcohol is forbidden on some holidays from noon the day before until noon the day after. Drinking in public is illegal (although you may see it happening!) and may potentially result in a fine or arrest. DUI laws also apply.
- Carnival, a huge “street festival” which is the local version of Brazil’s Mardi Gras, is the largest celebration in Panama and attracts thousands of participants in various cities throughout Panama. With so many people out celebrating, street crime could be a concern, so staying vigilant if you join in the festivities. Water is often sprayed in public, so be prepared to get wet! Remember also that there can be heavy traffic during holidays and plan accordingly.
- In addition to the National holidays, local cities In Panama could have parades to celebrate their anniversary or other special occasions.
- If your Social Security check or pension check is being sent to a Panama bank, you need to know that it will be delayed if delivery occurs during a Panama holiday.
Interestingly, during many National holidays, a lot of people leave Panama City to celebrate the holiday at the beach or the mountains of Panama. I’ve been in Panama City during some National holidays and the City seemed like a ghost town. Traffic getting out of Panama City is horrible just before a National Holiday and just as bad coming back in to Panama City towards the end of the holiday.
Here is a list of Panama’s national and public holidays for 2018.
|Weekday||Date||Holiday name||Holiday type|
|Wednesday||Jan 1||New Year’s Day||National holiday|
|Day off for Martyr´s Day
|Monday||Feb 12||Carnival||National holiday|
|Tuesday||Feb 13||Carnival/Shrove Tuesday||National holiday|
|Wednesday||Feb 14||Carnival/Ash Wednesday||National holiday|
|Thursday||Mar 29||Maundy Thursday (½ day)||Christian, Common Local holiday|
|Friday||Mar 30||Good Friday||National holiday, Christian|
|Saturday||Mar 31||Holy Saturday||Observance, Christian|
|Sunday||Apr 1||Easter Day||Observance, Christian|
|Tuesday||May 1||Labor Day / May Day||National holiday|
|Wednesday||Aug 15||Foundation of Old Panama City||Common Local holiday|
|Saturday||Nov 3||Independence Day||National holiday|
|Sunday||Nov 4||Flag Day||Common Local holiday|
|Monday||Nov 5||Colon Day||National holiday|
|Saturday||Nov 10||Shout in Villa de los Santos||National holiday|
|Wednesday||Nov 28||Independence from Spain||National holiday|
|Sunday||Dec 8||Mother’s Day||National holiday|
|Monday||Dec 24||Christmas Eve (½ day)||Common Local holiday|
|Tuesday||Dec 25||Christmas Day||National holiday, Christian|
|Monday||Dec 31||New Year’s Eve ( ½ day)||Common Local holiday|
***If you’d like to follow the holidays in future years (and enjoy fabulous photos of the country), order a Panama Wall Calendar at www.PanamaCalendars.com