5 Tips To Help Expats Adjust To Living In Panama

When you move to Panama, you may feel some stress dealing with a brand-new culture. Faced with a completely different way of doing things and a different language, some ex-pats struggle to adapt or feel like it is too much work. A good example is something as simple as opening a bank account. In Panama, banks will require 1-2 bank reference letters, a personal reference letter, and a 1-2 hour interview, and even then it could take several days or weeks to open an account.

Frustrated or unsure where to start, some ex-pats stay locked in their house, and others spend all of their time hanging out with other ex-pats at the local bar. They never venture out to explore. These are often the same people who complain about locals and their way of life. You’ll often hear them say, “it’s not the way things were done back home.”

It does not need to be this way!

Immersing yourself in your new life in Panama can be an exciting and enriching experience. You’ll feel more comfortable and adjust faster if you follow the five tips below:


Use the first few weeks after you arrive to observe the rhythm of daily life. A good place to do this is a park or outdoor coffee shop. During the rainy season, you’ll notice that most people try to get all their errands done before 2 p.m. so they can be home before the rains start. Take time to drive all the streets to discover where things are located. Get a taxi to drive you around if you don’t have a car. Then, hit the pavement.  Go into each store, pharmacy, and restaurant to see what’s available.. and where. If you don’t have a car, notice where locals catch a taxi. This will help you get familiar with your new home faster. This initial exploration will provide the basic information you need to settle into your new ex-pat life in Panama.

Las Tablas Town Square


Don’t be afraid to ask for help, information, and recommendations. When you see other expats, ask for their advice or help finding what you need or where to go. You’ll find that the expat community is a close-knit group that is very happy to share what they know to help you adjust to an expat lifestyle. Panamanians are glad to help, too!

When we moved to Panama, I joined five different Facebook and Yahoo groups where people exchanged information about living there. These forums were great places to get answers to my questions, find things I needed, meet new friends, and avoid certain places. I learned about hiking groups, volunteer opportunities, whale-watching trips, and women’s groups. I also learned where to go for live music events.

A word of caution: some people on social media have never lived in Panama, yet they seem to be online 24/7, offering advice about living there. You need to verify who you are getting information from. Beware of spam on social media. Never give our personal financial information.


Once you’ve settled in, expand your understanding of Panama and the city you moved to. Visit museums, libraries, and musical events. Don’t limit yourself to ex-pat hangouts. Take a drive. Do day trips to beaches or mountain towns to learn more about Panama. Try a weekend in Bocas del Toro or Las Lajas beach. Many hotels offer 50% off specials at www.OfertaSimple.com. Do a Google search for local newspapers, then subscribe to help you learn about what’s happening in Panama. Use Chrome to translate the newspaper into English. Reading the local newspapers will help you understand what’s happening in Panama.

Always look for events, festivals, and new places to explore. Then go! You’ll meet new people and get a real appreciation for all that Panama has to offer.

super gourmet in bocas del toro
Super Gourmet Market in Bocas del Toro, Panama


Push beyond your comfort zone. If you don’t speak Spanish, learn a few phrases and then use them whenever you are out. Even a Buenas Dias (good day) will go a long way. Try a local dish.. you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Try talking to Panamanians. Visit the farmer’s market, then buy fruits or vegetables you have never had before. Ride the bus. Join a gym or yoga class. Find out where locals and ex-pats hang out, then go there to meet people and make new friends.

When I make my grocery list, I look up the word in Spanish, too, and write it next to the English word. This helped me learn words in Spanish. It also helps when I can’t find something at the grocery store I can point to the word and get help finding any item on my list. Get Google Translate on your smartphone.

Don’t put too many things on your “to-do” list each day. This is a sure way to get frustrated. Instead, list things you need to do and then prioritize them. Start with the most important thing first. Get that accomplished, then move on to the next thing on your list. Understand that some things take longer in Panama. You can’t change the pace no matter how hard you try. Knowing this in advance will make your life easier. Recruit the help of a bi-lingual local when necessary. You should be able to get translator recommendations from other ex-pats. They will make your transition to living in Panama so much easier.

Every month plan a new excursion to explore more of Panama. You’ll learn to appreciate the natural beauty of this amazing country.

Zumba Classes

Join some local volunteer groups to help you meet friends much faster.   Also, attend Panamanian events.  The local library usually has art shows or other events where you can meet people. You can’t wait for someone to come knocking on your door. If there aren’t any ex-pat groups where you are… start one! Get on a Panama Facebook group, then invite everyone to meet at a local restaurant at a particular time. You’ll meet a lot of people. The last thing you want to do is stay home glued to the TV with news from home.

If you come on a Panama Relocation Tour or buy the Complete Panama Relocation Guide, you have an INSTANT support system built-in and PRT family all over Panama. You don’t have to go it alone!


If you do these things, you’ll adjust to your new life in Panama faster. It’s essential to get out of your house often. If you’re recently retired, now is your turn to do the things you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time to do before.

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. Anthony Rosa says

    do you have moving companies you recommend? I’m moving just a few items from Maryland to Santiago de Veraguas. Gracias.

  2. Robert Smith lll says

    Planing to visit in April I am a retired marine looking to check out Panama for possible move for my self maybe in the hills Bogeta

    • Jackie Lange says

      You will be AMAZED when you see how beautiful Boquete is!

  3. Ruben Muniz says

    My wife and I are looking to be in an apartment close to Panama City and on a golf course and near a beach. We have a limited budget of $2,500 to $3,000.
    What areas make sense to explore?
    Does a private tour make more sense since our area is focused?

    • Jackie Lange says

      A private tour makes more sense since your area is focused. There are no apartments near a golf course and on the beach in Panama City. If the budget your mentioned your rentals budget or your total budget? If it’s your total budget, you will get much more for your money in the beach communities near Chitre where there is a golf course that is $80 a month for unlimited golf. See private tour details at https://panamarelocationtours.com/private-tours

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