Since 2010, we have been offering Panama Relocation Tours and helped 1000s of people relocate to Panama. Some of our clients have shipped a container to Panama but most don’t. You’ll understand why when you read the rest of the article.
SHIPPING HOUSEHOLD GOODS TO PANAMA
Most people do not ship household goods or cars to Panama because it is so expensive. This month I obtained quotes from several international moving companies and it would cost $9,000 to $16,000 to ship a 40-foot container from the United States. A 20-foot container is about 20% less. If you live in Canada, the cost will be a little more. Note that these prices may not include loading or unloading the shipping container so you may need to hire someone else to do that for you.
It is expensive to ship your household goods to Panama and that’s why most people move to Panama with a few suitcases or they ship 5 to 10 boxes instead of a container. The costs difference depends on how close you are to a port and which mover you select. It will take about 3 weeks for your container to go from North America to Panama.
WHERE WILL YOU MOVE TO
The other problem you will run into with shipping your household goods to Panama is that many rentals (and homes for sale) come completely furnished so you’ll have a very limited selection of places to move to with all your household goods. A landlord will not move their furniture out of the house so you can move your furniture in. So you’ll need to find a rental that is not furnished. If you have large furniture, it may not fit in Panama houses. If you plan to ship a container to Panama, you will need to come to Panama in advance to find a house that your household goods can be moved to. The international movers will need an address or directions on where to take your household goods. If you don’t have a place to move your household goods to, the moving companies can store your household goods in their warehouse… for a fee of course.
CAN A SHIPPING CONTAINER GET TO YOUR HOUSE
Another thing to take into consideration when shipping a container is if the moving company will be able to get a shipping container to your property. In some parts of Panama, it would be completely impossible to get a shipping container anywhere near the house. The road could be too narrow or too steep, the road may be a dirt road, or it may be impossible to get the shipping container up or down your driveway. The moving company can transfer your household goods to a smaller truck then make multiple trips to your house but there will be an extra expense for this service.
A good example…my house is at the bottom of a steep driveway at a narrow turn on the road. If I had shipped a container to Panama, it would be necessary for the truck to park on the road about 100 yards away from my driveway entry. Then they would have to use a dolly to go down my steep driveway to get to my house. It is estimated that it would cost an extra $3,000 to $5,000 because the shipping container cannot get down my driveway to my house.
BEWARE OF HUMIDITY
Some household items will not hold up well to the humidity in Panama. Some areas of Panama get much more humidity than others. Leather furniture, purses, and shoes don’t hold up well in Panama. Books do not hold up well to humidity and will start smelling moldy. You can certainly use a dehumidifier but that will increase your utility costs.
BEWARE OF TERMITES
Houses in Panama are built with cement blocks because there is a problem with termites who love to eat wood. If you bring furniture made with softwoods like pine or oak, you will need to treat the furniture often to prevent termites from eating the wood. Hardwoods like teak and cedar do better in Panama. In Panama, most cabinets and doors are made with hardwoods like Cedro (similar to cedar) to prevent termite damage.
Some international movers are a bit more affordable, but I know people who used the cheapest company they could find to ship two 40-foot containers. One container never arrived in Panama and the other container had a lot of things missing.
Instead of shipping ALL your household goods, you might consider shipping 5 to 10 boxes using one of the mail forwarding companies in the area you move to. Most of the mail forwarding companies charge about $3 to $4 a pound to ship boxes from North America to Panama. But some offer sea freight rates of $10 a cubic foot.
Keep in mind that many rentals come completely furnished. If you don’t like the dishes, you can buy new dishes in Panama. If you don’t like the TV on the rental, you can buy a new TV in Panama.
If you decide not to ship your household goods to Panama, you may want to put them in storage in your country for a year so you can give Panama a good test drive before you sell everything you own.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is needed to ship my goods to Panama?
• Passport from native country
• Packing List with Value of Items
• Panamanian Residency Card (when using an international mover)
What is the average moving cost based on?
The cost will depend on the following factors:
• Where are the goods coming from?
• Where is the shipment headed?
• What is contained in the shipment? (household goods, tools, machinery, valuables)
• Will you need packing services, or will you be able to pack on your own?
I heard that I can move my personal effects with a letter from my lawyer. Is this true?
This used to be the case, but Customs now at least requires that you hold a Panama Temporary Residency card that confirms that your residency is in the process (on the top of the card it will say “en tramite”). You must also be present in the country when the personal effects arrive. About one week before your goods arrive, you will need to send your US Passport to the customs broker in Panama City so that they can verify that you are already in the country.
What items can I bring?
These must be used household goods. Construction equipment, commercial tools/equipment, motorcycles, trailers, and other non-household goods will be taxed.
How long does shipping take?
Depends on where it is coming from, but usually 30 days.
What if I have less than 1 or 2 pallets worth of goods?
We recommend using a mail forwarding company in Panama. You may even be able to pack extra luggage on the plane. This can save tremendously.
I have received more affordable shipping quotes elsewhere. Is there a reason for this? Will there be any extra fees?
When looking for moving quotes to Panama, be sure to understand the total cost involved. After customs fees, handling charges, and other shipping fees that are sometimes assessed at the end, some have paid much more than they were originally quoted just to get their personal effects released. Get a door-to-door price! Make sure there are no extra fees.
Can I import my goods tax-free?
Household goods can be imported tax-free one time up to a value of $10,000. These must be household goods. Construction equipment, commercial tools/equipment, motorcycles, trailers, and other non-household goods will be taxed. You will need at least a temporary Visa to ship your household goods to Panama.
Can you transport my tools?
Yes, we can. However, please note that tools are usually not considered household goods. If you are looking to import large amounts of tools or powered machinery/equipment, these will be taxed by Customs. Small hand tools and/or household tools are usually ok.
How much are the taxes?
Usually about 20% of the resale value.
When you come on a Panama Relocation Tour, we will give you information on the best international movers and also take you to shopping centers so you can see what’s available in Panama and what the costs are like. This will help you decide what to ship and what to buy in Panama. You can buy just about anything you need or want in Panama.
When I rented my house in Panama, I knew it needed a new TV, bedspreads, cookware, towels, sheets, shower curtains, and decorations on the walls. But instead of shipping those things to Panama, I purchased them in Panama which saved me a lot of money! I wanted to start my new life in Panama with new things.
My husband wanted to ship all his tools to Panama. But he discovered that all the tools he needed are available in Panama and, even better, you can hire a local handyman to fix things for you for a super affordable price so it’s not necessary to ship tools to Panama. A good example… I recently hired a handyman to build and install a fountain in my garden for $60.
For the $15,000 it could cost to ship your household goods, you can buy a LOT of stuff in Panama!