Panama – An Expats View

During a Panama Relocation Tour, we spend one night in Santiago Panama.  Santiago is about halfway between David, on the far western side of Panama, and Panama City.  It is a popular stopping point for buses and other travelers who are driving to or from Panama City.  It’s a big town with a population of about 90,000 people.  Santiago has everything you’d ever need or want, including hospitals, malls, 24-hour grocery stores, affordable housing, an airport, and super-friendly people.  Every time I go through Santiago, it seems something new has been built.  But it’s hot – really hot – mostly because it is not close enough to the Pacific Ocean to enjoy the ocean breezes.  And it’s not at a high enough elevation to escape the coastal heat and humidity.

At sea level in Panama the temperature is about 90 degrees +/- 5 degrees.  For every 1,000 feet increase in elevation, the temperature drops about 4 degrees.  So, you can literally pick your ideal temperature in Panama based on the elevation.  I live at 4600 feet above sea level with Spring like weather year round.


For years, I’ve had a heck of a time finding any expats who live in Santiago… until now.  Meet Rick Shultz, an expat who has lived in Santiago with his wife Elsie and their teenage son for about 15 years. 

Rick Shultz Santiago Panama
Rick Schultz

During a Panama Relocation Tour, we spend some time in Santiago. Santiago is about halfway between Panama City and David Panama, along the Pan American Highway.

Each part of Panama offers different weather and amenities. The only way to find the best place for you is to come see Panama up close and personal (hopefully during a Panama Relocation Tour).  Read the article below to learn what Rick has to say about living in Santiago.

Panama – An Expat’s View

Mark Twain once said, back in 1897, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Well, of course, someone did finally do something about it, or at least about the heat and humidity of what we now like to call, tropical paradises. A young man by the name of Willis Carrier from New York State did so in the early 20th Century when he designed and built the world’s first modern electrical air conditioning unit.

Not long after that, people began retiring to places like Florida which, under normal circumstances, would have been considered an inhospitable marshland of unbearable heat and humidity, populated mostly by snakes, alligators, and a few hearty Indians. There might have been an occasional, but determined, American retiree, but there weren’t many, at least not back then.

Panama is a lot like Florida, so far as the heat is concerned. And, it’s also grown exponentially just like Florida, to a great extent because of the cooling power and dehumidification capabilities of modern air conditioning.

Yes, expats are going to find that it’s hot and humid down here, just like in Florida. But it’s quite bearable in most places with air conditioning, and in some unique places up in the Panama highlands, it’s comfortable even without it.

Santiago Mall

I’ve been here for 13 years, and love the place. Sure, it’s got a few warts and such, but so does every place on the face of the earth. Driving in Panama City takes nerves of steel, and there’s an old joke about when you’ll be in a car wreck. Not “if” you’ll be in one, but “when”. It’s something you accept like death and taxes. You “will” be in an accident if you drive around regularly in Panama City.

But I intended to write about the seasons in Panama here and got sidetracked. Sorry. The seasons take a bit of getting used to. When I lived back in the states, we had all four of the regular, normal seasons they write about, or at least a good portion of them since you can forget about snow and freezing weather in nearly all parts of Florida.

But Panama is different. Here, we’ve got the hot rainy season that lasts from about mid-April to mid-December, and then we have the hot dry season that comes during the rest of the year.

Did I say it’s hot here? Well, yes. That is, if you’re from anywhere other than the Deep South in the US. During the the hot rainy season, which is called “winter” here, you realize that you really are in the tropics. It rains. Almost every day. And when it rains, it rains HARD.

And then, after awhile, it’ll either stop altogether and the sun will peek through the clouds, or it will slow down to what’s called a llovizna. A llovizna is defined as a sort-of drizzle with smaller droplets than regular drizzle. The drops seem to float in the air instead of falling. It’s a common phenomenon in some parts of South American, notably Chile, Peru and Bolivia, but also along the Cantabrian coast of Spain. In some cases, the llovizna drizzle will be so light that it completely evaporates before reaching the ground. It’s weird. Welcome to Panama!

On the other hand, the hot “summer” season here is hot and DRY. There will be an occasional shower, but it will be nothing like the gully washing variety we have nearly every day in the “winter” months.

Your water bill will go up because you’re constantly watering the plants that you meticulously placed around the house and garden, and you will occasionally lose a few because the humidity is higher than the plants need to stay healthy.

It’s great here. You might just love it! I’ll write more next time. And if you have any questions about moving to or living in Panama, write me or Jackie. You’ll find out a lot more by taking a tour with her and a bunch of others to see the country through her exciting Panama Relocation Tours. That’s when you’ll find out what life would “really” be like when you actually live in this delightful country. She won’t show you the “rose colored glasses” tour either. Instead, you’ll see the real Panama. And you’ll get to meet with lots of other expats to get their viewpoints too.

Pricesmart (like Costco) in Santiago

A Panama Relocation Tour attract people from all over the world, in all age groups, not just retirees. And during every tour, Jackie takes you to meet with expats like me for lunch and/or dinner around the country, because she thinks it’s important for you to get information from a variety of sources to help you make the right decision about relocating to Panama.

Jackie provides you a genuine “boots on the ground” tour from one end of Panama to the other. You’ll see the REAL Panama for yourself. It’s the only way you can really make an intelligent decision about relocating to this beautiful, safe, and affordable country.

See you next time!

Rick Shultz
Santiago, Panama

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.

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