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The process of finding a rental in Panama is different than what you are familiar with. There is not one website like Zillow where you can see a lot of available rentals. You can’t just walk into one real estate office and ask to see all the rentals in your price range. Instead, you’ll need to take a much more proactive approach to find a rental in Panama. Listen to the replay of a conference call discussing how to find a rental. You’ll learn what NOT to do too!
See the top 10 takeaways from the call below. Listen to the replay for many other tips and tricks for finding a rental in Panama.
1. You’ll need to take a much more proactive approach to find a rental. Check Facebook groups in the area you want to move to. Check craigslist Panama and other websites like Encuentra for rentals. Rent a car and drive around looking for rental signs or hire a driver to take you.
2. The best rentals are usually found by word-of-mouth and rented directly from the owner. Don’t be afraid to ask people you meet if they know if any rentals.
3. Never ever rent something without seeing it first. It’s good to see the neighborhood during the day time and at night before signing a lease. Listen for barking dogs, roosters, noisy neighbors.
4. Don’t assume that it has hot water at every faucet. Verify.
6. Verify that the house has a reserve water tank.
7. Make sure there is a written lease. Write down everything they told you would come with the house (like electricity, water, gardener, etc) then very that those things are listed in the lease.
8. For condo/apartment complexes, ask if there is a generator and what it powers in your unit (hopefully the elevator too). East versus the west side of the building can make a big difference too!
9. Beware that some landlords charge twice as much during high season. You can avoid this if you rent before or after high season.
10. Insist that you be able to talk to the owner to verify what the correct rent is so you can avoid a net listing.
Our Online Panama Relocation Guide contains all the information you need to know to relocate to Panama. It also has a list of reliable property managers/real estate agents who can help you find a rental. It’s a good idea to contact the agents about a month before you come to Panama so they can have some rentals lined up for you to see.
Many more families with children are relocating to Panama. One of their biggest concerns is getting a good education for their children. Public schools are only taught in Spanish. International or bilingual schools are readily available but they can be expensive. So, many parents decide to homeschool their children in Panama.
I asked Ellen Bailey, who home schools her son, to write an article about homeschooling in Panama.
As parents, one of our biggest responsibilities is the education of our children and when contemplating a move to another country, choosing how to educate them becomes paramount. Should they be enrolled in the public school system or would a private one be a better fit? Perhaps you have tried homeschooling or even used a combination of homeschool and public school, often referred to as “hybrid homeschooling,” and this has worked well for you. Although homeschooling is not prevalent here in Panama, this is a popular choice especially among expatriates, or expats, and the one that my husband and I decided to implement for our son.
I have often been asked how we made the decision to homeschool our now 16-year-old son when we moved to Panama in 2015. After conducting extensive research on public and private schools, we decided that homeschooling would be our best choice for many reasons. Although there are some wonderful private schools in Panama, the area we first lived in made it logistically hard for him to attend. He had spent all of his early education, from 2 years old to 5th grade in public and private institutions, which initially caused this mom A LOT of anxiety when deciding to explore this homeschooling concept that was foreign to me.
It is imperative that you do your due diligence, and research which style of homeschooling is best for your child since there is a multitude of choices including the school at home/textbook-oriented, classical homeschooling, online or virtual school, eclectic or relaxed homeschooling, unit studies, Waldorf, Montessori, Moore Formula, Charlotte Mason or even unschooling.
After much research, we decided to try a program called Enlightium Academy, a private Christian school that serves homeschool, co-op, and online students. This is a fee-based program that he completed entirely online and worked out pretty well for our first year as it provided more structure that I felt was necessary for him to have. However, when we first moved here, we were doing the “border hops” that required us to leave the country every 3-6 months for at least 3 days at a time and because we always chose to go to Costa Rica, internet service was not always available. This meant that he would be behind a few days, which caused a bit of undue stress.
After that first year, we decided to try a program called Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool and it has been a fantastic choice! The curriculum includes 180 days of homeschool lessons and assignments and covers reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, math, history/social studies/geography, science, foreign language, Bible, computer, music, art, PE/Health, and logic, all with the flexibility that we need, using only free materials found online! It gives us the ability to choose which courses we want him to take and even use some “Parent submitted” courses such as Consumer Math and Coding. When trying to choose a homeschooling curriculum, you must also take into consideration if your child is planning to continue their education at a college, university or even trade school and if the program is accredited and will be accepted at the postsecondary institution of their choice.
Another popular question that I have heard is how long does a “typical” school day take? This depends on a myriad of factors but perhaps the most important ones are the personality and learning style of your child. It seems like we initially tried it all: morning, afternoon, evening, at the kitchen table, outside on the balcony overlooking the Pacific (HOT!), mom at his side the majority of the time, mom sitting in the same room but not by him and finally, mom nowhere near him because apparently I’m not very bright – teenagers, gotta love ‘em! A day could be as short as a couple of hours or take almost 4.
What has been important for me to remember is that even if he finishes in 2-3 hours, the learning does not stop there, especially since we live in this beautiful foreign country. A lot of his learning, especially with his foreign language, Spanish, is reinforced out in the community, with his friends, and even at an after school program for the Indigenous people, where he spent many hours playing soccer, learning their culture, eating with them, and even sitting in on some of the music and computer classes. It was those early days when we first moved to Panama that he became fluent in Spanish and cultivated his love for this country. He takes Spanish in school so he will know not only how to correctly speak, but also had to read and write fluently. For his PE classes, he plays Pickleball, 3 times a week as well as soccer, baseball, American football, and basketball.
Many times I am asked if homeschooling is legal in Panama and what the “rules” are. This is the best explanation I have come across:
“Homeschooling is not legal but there are a number of families who are currently homeschooling.
Schooling is mandatory and not attending school is penalized.
The Constitution allocates Title III on Individual and Social Rights and Duties, Chapter 5 to Education. In it, Article 91 provides that the State organizes and directs the public service of national education and guarantees parents the right to participate in the educational process of their children. While Art. 94 guarantees freedom of education and recognizes the right to create private teaching centers, although always subject to what is established by law.”
In other words, like most things here in Panama, and other places in the World, there is always a “workaround.” As stated earlier, homeschooling is not as popular here like it is in other parts of the world although many expats and increasingly more locals, especially in Panama City, are deciding to do this because the education system is honestly not up to par, ranking 3rd from the bottom in the world in 2009. However, with the election of the new head of Education in Panama in 2018, and the fact that the government recognizes the need to improve schools, there has been a push for funds for more technology in the classroom.
Because we had never homeschooled before, I was concerned if he would be able to meet new friends, become active in sports, band, clubs, etc. I must admit that he has made as many if not more friends here as he had in the U.S. I absolutely have to give the majority of the credit to him because he literally jumped in with both feet! The second day we moved here, he was invited to come to play with the kids at the school program next door which allowed him not only to learn Spanish but also to meet many friends. His best friends live down the street and treat him like a member of their family. He has served as an interpreter for our good friend, a Kuna Indian, who has an artesian shop in the downtown area where he has been able to help people from all over the world. He found a pickleball group to play with, albeit most are adults and even joined a community band where he carried the flag our first Christmas here and then marched as a member of the band the next year. All of these things he did mostly on his own which is very different from any organized sport or club he was a member of in the U.S. There were no notes sent home or letters encouraging us to sign him up for whatever activity was being offered. He actually had to go out into the community, find these different groups, and even work to be able to buy his own drum, uniform, racquet, etc.
I realize how daunting relocating to another country can be especially when moving with children! However, it is possible for them to not only survive but also THRIVE! Remember that children are very resilient and are more capable of making this change than we adults are. When it comes to education, homeschooling will allow you to make the decisions on what subjects, curriculum, and teaching/ learning styles you want for them. Whatever part of the country you decide to move to, you will always be able to find other families that are doing the same thing. Join as many social media groups as you can for the area you will be settling in. There are always those who have “come before” and are more than willing to lend a hand!
To you, mom and dad, I say relax, breathe, and just do it!
I love living in Panama. But, it’s not right for everyone. Some people move to Panama then realize it’s not right for them, so they move away. It’s not always a “bad” reason that people want to leave Panama. This information is based on talking to people I know who have moved away from Panama.
We strongly recommend that you just rent for at least the first year when you move to Panama. This gives you time to make sure you like living in Panama. It gives you time to make sure you like the microclimate you have moved to. Living in Panama a year gives you time to experience the dry season and the rainy season which can be dramatically different. Living in Panama for a year gives you time to understand the “right” price to pay if you follow the real estate market.
The Top 10 Reasons People Leave Panama are:
1. Newly Retired – a couple spent most of their time working before moving to Panama. They were together a few hours in the evenings and on weekends. But when they move to Panama, they are suddenly together 24/7. Some people realize they don’t like living together 24/7 so one might leave Panama or they both leave Panama then go their separate ways. To avoid this problem, it’s good to get involved in separate activities when you move to Panama. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, hiking groups, cooking classes, and other things to get you out of the house. Volunteering is a good way to meet people too.
2. Health Problems – They may develop serious health problems then want to go back home to be close to family. Or they leave Panama so they can use Medicare or other health insurance that does not cover them in Panama. Sometimes, a close family member may become very ill so they leave Panama to help take care of them.
3. Prescription drugs – It’s important to find out if your medications are available in Panama and what they cost before you move to Panama. Some have left Panama because they could not get their medications or because they were too expensive. Panama insurance may not cover the cost of medications so you have to pay out of pocket. You may be able to get drugs shipped to Panama from your country. During a Panama Relocation Tour, we take you to several pharmacies so you can check the availability and price of your prescriptions.
4. Unscrupulous real estate agent – Most agents in Panama are honest and ethical. But some do what’s called a net listing where they charge more for a house than it is worth either for houses for sale or a house for rent. Just this week a couple was shown the same house with three different prices by three different real estate agents. Another lady was quoted a sales price of $100,000 more than the seller was really asking. When things like this happen, people feel like they have been taken advantage of (which they have) then leave Panama in disgust. Some people have had a bad experience with a builder. Or they bought land then discovered later that they could not build on it even though the agent told them they could. Unlike North America, Panama does not have a widely used MLS (multiple listing service) in Panama so it’s impossible to get a good comparative market analysis on a property to know the “right” price to pay. I have a file full of testimonials of people who have run into all these kinds of problems. Keep in mind these unscrupulous things can happen anywhere in the world, they are not exclusive to Panama.
5. Next Adventure – many expats are adventurous people. They like to live in one place for a few years then move to another country for a few years so they can experience their next adventure.
6. Language barrier – Even though English is spoken a lot in some areas in Panama, English is not spoken everywhere in Panama. The official language in Panama is Spanish. Some people leave Panama because they get frustrated with not being able to communicate with everyone or not being able to hear English everywhere they go.
7. Cultural differences -almost everything you do in Panama will be done in a different way. Something as simple as opening a bank account can take days if you don’t know the right way to open an account in Panama. Repair people might not show up on time. The frustrations are enough to cause some people to leave Panama. If you move to the wrong rental, you could get stuck next to people who have barking dogs, who love to party until the wee hours of the morning, or who own roosters who make noise all day.
8. Politics – some people move to Panama because their candidate did not win the election. Once their party gets back in power, they leave Panama. (note, it’s better to move to Panama because you want to experience Panama, not because you are running away from something)
9. Money problems – it’s very hard for a foreigner to get a job in Panama. If people can’t find a job and their money runs out, they leave Panama. Even retirees leave Panama because of money problems because an unexpected expense comes up that they cannot afford because they have not saved some of their income every month.
10. Crime – some people move away because there was an increase in crime in the town/area where they live. It makes them uncomfortable, especially if the crime happened close to their home.
11. one more – the pandemic – some expats left Panama on a humanitarian flight during the pandemic. They did not like the rules, regulations, and lockdowns that Panama implemented.
Some people made some very costly mistakes when they moved to Panama. It created such bad feelings about Panama that they moved away. Don’t let that happen to you!!
Before you sell everything you own then move to Panama, it’s a good idea to come to visit first. To avoid costly mistakes, before you move to Panama, you need to get a thorough education about what life is like in Panama, how to get things done, and who you can trust. Do your research. You may want to join us for a 6-day all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour or for a Private Tour of the areas you are most interested in. Then, after visiting Panama, you may want to give Panama a 3-6 month test drive before you make the final decision to relocate to Panama. When you move to Panama, rent a furnished house/condo for at least a year before you make a buying decision. Many people decide to just rent the whole time they live in Panama so they have the flexibility to leave whenever they want to.
Our Online Panama Relocation Guide has all the information you need to know to have a smooth, easy relocation to Panama. If you follow the advice in the Online Panama Relocation Guide, you will be able to avoid mistakes that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. The Online Guide has recommendations for reliable immigration lawyers, honest real estate agents, buying health insurance for 40% less, buying a car, getting pets in to Panama, and much more.
Watch this video to learn what Queen Victoria Kavanaugh has to say about the Online Panama Relocation Guide.