On the Panama Relocation Tours website we say if you can’t walk several blocks on your own and get up and down steps easily then Panama .. and the tour…and Panama…may not be for you.
We make this disclaimer because sometimes it will be necessary to walk from the bus to a restaurant.. sometimes 1-2 blocks away. You will need to go up several stairs to get in and out of the bus. Some of the hotels we stay at have stairs to get to the hotel lobby or to your room.
That’s another reason we encourage people to only bring a carry-on size suitcase.
One afternoon, we give you a few hours on your own to walk around Boquete so you can check out the grocery stores, department store and pharmacies.
We also spend an hour at a shopping center where you can see electronic stores, grocery stores, wine stores, and Target-like stores… this all requires walking.
We walk around a PriceSmart store which is like a Costco so you can see if they have the items you like most and find out what they cost in Panama.
We visit several houses where ex-pats live during the tour but the bus cannot always drive up to the front door to let you out. You may need to walk up or down driveways.. sometimes steep driveways… to get to the house.
To make matters worse, the sidewalks are a mess in Panama — if they exist at all. So, you have to be very careful where you are walking.
I received this email today.
I was looking at your tours, sometime back, and I found something that bothered me. You had mentioned that the sidewalks in Panama city are uneven or broken, and you recommended that people with difficulty in walking should not undertake your tour! Can you explain that a little more for me?
Are sidewalks uneven “”all over”” Panama, including Boquete (which is the city of my real inerest)? Becasue if it is difficult to walk on your short tour, how can we conduct our lives everyday in Panama? Actually, if sidewalks are uneven or broken, even people of normal health will be unable to enjoy their walks on a daily basis!! So, why should I consider moving to a country where there are “unwalkable” sidewalks?
My answer was
Steps will not be the same size and there are usually no handrails. This is true even in Boquete (where I live). Around the Coronado shopping areas, the sidewalks are better than in other towns.
Some cities are working on replacing the sidewalks but there is a long way to go before they are anywhere near North American standards.
If you cannot get around easily during a one week tour, then it will be difficult to get around Panama if you move here.
If anyone has mobility issues or vision issues it will be hard to get around in Panama. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
I could tell you the rose-colored glasses story that international publications put out which paints that life is perfect in Panama… but that would not be the truth.
I think it is better to warn people about the problems before and during the tour. If uneven sidewalks are an issue, then many of the other things would be too.
If you can get around ok, then you should come to see Panama. The pluses FAR outweigh the negatives!
Even though the sidewalks are a mess, when you look up in Boquete and see the beautiful mountains surrounding the town and the spectacular flowers everywhere — it just makes the sidewalk issue seem really small compared to the natural beauty, fresh air, clean water, and affordable prices. Living in a place where you don’t need an air conditioner or heater is just amazing!
More Sidewalk Examples
Honestly, after you’ve been in Panama for awhile you don’t even notice the sidewalk problems. Instead, you focus on the positive things
about living in such a beautiful country!
Instead of walking on sidewalks for exercise, many enjoy the many HIKING TRAILS but they can be very uneven too with steep inclines.
Phillip Owens says
I have found that most sidewalks in many countries are uneven, one must pay attention to where you step.
Anand Viakara says
Thank you for bringing out this blog so quickly, in response to my email query! You are great !!!
Being originally from India, though I am now in the US for over 25 years, I am not too surprised to see the condition of the sidewalks!! It is much worse in many Indian cities and small towns!
But the beauty of nature in Boquete makes up for all these minus points. I loved that walking trail in the picture, and hope someday I can walk there!!
To live in the moment and accept everything as it is, is the only way to true happiness :-)
Panama Relocation Tours says
You REALLY do get to the point, after about a month, that the sidewalks don’t matter because you are living in such an AMAZING country with so much natural beauty all around you!!!
Kim Eshelman says
For reference, I have some difficulty walking and was even recovering from a broken foot. I did the tour with a collapsible cane. I could use it when I needed it and fold it up when I didn’t.