Whether you are relocating to Panama or just coming for a visit, here are some things you should do to make your trip a lot smoother.
LEARN SOME SPANISH
Even though many Panamanians speak English in some areas of Panama and will be willing to help you with translations, it is better to learn a few basic phrases and words before you arrive. A little Spanish and a big smile go a long way in Panama. Before your trip to Panama, study the free Spanish language training at www.DuoLingo.com. (there is a free app for your phone for Duolingo too).
I must admit that I am not fluent in Spanish but I know enough to get by comfortably.
Some towns in Panama have a high concentration of expats. In those towns, much more English is spoken. But you cannot always count on every Panamanian you come in contact with knowing Spanish, so keep Google Translate on your smartphone handy just in case you need a quick translation.
PANAMA CELL PHONE
If your cell phone is unlocked, you can buy a Panama SIM card at the airport or near most hotels. Then you’ll have a Panama cell phone number. All Panama cell phone numbers are eight digits. Landlines are seven digits. I recommend TIGO cell phone providers because they seem to work best throughout Panama. You could also buy a cell phone in Panama, which will already be unlocked. It will be much easier for you to get in touch with hotels, car rental places, lawyers, etc, if you have a Panama cell phone number. And it will be easier for them to contact you, too, if you have a Panama cell phone number. You can get a data plan and talk time added to your Panama phone for 1 day, 1 week, or by a month. I pay $30 a month for my cell phone plan.
MUST HAVE APPS FOR PANAMA
It’s a good idea to bring a smartphone to Panama so you can use some free apps to help you get around or buy a Panama cell phone when you arrive. Load these apps on your phone:
WhatsApp is the preferred way to communicate in Panama. Everyone uses WhatsApp in Panama! You can send text, send voice messages, share photos, and even send video messages… all for free.. if you have wifi or a data plan. You can invite people on your contact list to also download WhatsApp to their phones so you can stay in touch while in Panama. WhatsApp works all over the world.
Get the Uber App! Taxis are readily available, but the prices are all over the place. If a taxi driver sees you as a tourist, they will likely charge you the “gringo” price. Instead, it is better to use Uber. With Uber, you will know exactly what the cost will be for your trip. There is no gringo pricing. Uber cars are much nicer and cleaner than most taxis in Panama. You can even request an English-speaking Uber driver though it is unnecessary because your driver will already know where you want to go. Uber is safer, too, because your fare is automatically charged to your credit card so you don’t need to pull out cash and hope the taxi driver will have change. Uber works well in Panama City, but it is unavailable in the rest of Panama.
Waze is like Google Maps but works better in Panama. Waze will guide you to your destination with the most direct route to avoid traffic. Waze will also let you know if there is a traffic jam ahead and then reroute you. Other people using Waze can comment on traffic in Panama, but it will likely be in Spanish.
Google Translate. Unless you are fluent in Spanish, you definitely need to have the Google Translate App on your phone before you arrive in Panama. Google Translate allows you to type or speak words in your language and then translate them into Spanish. You can see the words in Spanish, or you can click on an icon to hear the words in Spanish. Just show the translation to the person you are trying to communicate with. You can also use the camera function in Google Translate to translate menus or other publications into English.
Degusta can be used to find a restaurant and see reviews. The only problem is that it’s in Spanish only, but you can still search for Italian, German, Vegetarian, etc restaurants to see what’s available and what the ratings are. You can check out their website at www.degustapanama.com
Unit Conversions. Panama uses the metric system. You can use the Conversion App to convert miles to kilometers, liters to gallons, etc. You need to know that the maximum speed limit in Panama is 100km, which is 60 miles an hour. Don’t speed. There are transit cops throughout Panama.
Skype. If some of your contacts don’t have WhatsApp, you can call them using Skype, or they can call you if they have your Skype handle. It is much more affordable than international calls. You can do video calls with Skype and share documents too.
Always ensure that you have a secure VPN app installed (I use NordVPN) on your mobile device to protect your data and privacy while using public Wi-Fi networks.
Before traveling, double-check the availability and reliability of these apps, read recent reviews, and download any offline maps or guides you may need during your stay in Panama.
When you go to a restaurant, they will not bring your bill until you ask for it. “La Cuenta, Por Favor” By the way, a 10% tip is customary for meals in restaurants in Panama.
At stores, the salespeople will follow you around, but they will not ask if you need help until you ask them to come over to help you.
Panamanians love to party – hardy – with loud music and dancing until the wee hours of the morning, especially during Panamanian holidays. When you are looking for a place to live, if Panamanians live next door, you will likely get invited to all the parties. But if you’re not a party animal, who enjoys loud music, you may need to find a different house to move to.
Panama has two seasons. The dry season in Panama is from mid-December to mid-April, and the rainy season is from mid-April to mid-December. In the dry season, there is less rain and more wind. In the rainy season, there is more rain, but Panama does not get a lot of rain until October and November. It’s especially good to have an umbrella handy during the rainy season. Even though Panama temperatures are consistent, the rains can put a chill in the air so it’s best to wear layers and bring a light jacket. Daytime temperatures at the coast are 90 degrees +/- 5 degrees. For every 1,000 feet increase in elevation, the temperature drops 4 degrees.
WORK WITH A PANAMA RELOCATION EXPERT
Since 2010, we have helped thousands of people have a smooth, hassle-free move to Panama.
We have the experience you can trust!
We can help you with your exploratory trip to Panama during our 6-day all-inclusive tour. Our driver will meet you at the airport and take you to our group hotel in Panama City. Then we’ll spend six days showing you popular areas all over Panama, and introduce you to expats who have already moved to Panama. You’ll meet an immigration lawyer who will explain the various Visa options. You’ll get our list of trustworthy contacts to help you find a rental, buy health insurance, buy a car, get pets into Panama, and more. Plus, you’ll learn:
• How to find a rental.. and things to watch out for
• Health insurance companies – little tricks to save you 30% or more
• How to get BIG discounts on many purchases in Panama
• CPA’s with expat & Panamanian experience
• Meet with Attorney to learn about visa options and business structures
• Shipping and moving companies (Tips for saving money, too)
• What it takes to start a business in Panama.. and which businesses are off-limits.
• Pet relocation (my step-by-step guide for a smooth transition)
• Trustworthy real estate agents and property managers (they are hard to find)
• How to get online orders (Amazon) and other mail delivered to you
• Selling on Amazon – Without touching products
• The best way to take title to a property if you decide to buy
• International Schools – things you need to know
• How to send and receive faxes without using a fax machine
• Typical costs and budgets in various areas (there’s a big difference)
• How to get phone calls to/from your country in Panama… for free
• How to bring a gun into Panama and get a permit (or buy one here)
• Learn How to Fund Your Life Overseas… Little Ways to Make Big Money
• Step-by-step CHECKLIST of things to do BEFORE you move to Panama
• Best place to buy or rent a car
• and MUCH more.
All this and NO SALES PITCHES! We do not sell real estate, so you don’t have to worry about high-pressure sales tactics. In fact, we highly recommend that you rent for at least 6-12 months before you even consider buying real estate in Panama.
We don’t sugar-coat living in Panama, either. During the tour, you’ll learn the good and the not-so-good so you can make an intelligent decision about relocating to Panama.
Our #1 objective is to help make your relocation to Panama as stress-free and smooth as possible… with no surprises when you make the move.
NO ONE knows more about Panama than we do!
During our 6-day Panama Relocation Tour, you’ll learn what you need to know to transition smoothly to Panama. You’ll learn to improve your lifestyle with less expense and stress! And, by the end of the tour, you’ll know if Panama is right for you.. or not.
Not a tour group kind of person? We also offer our Online Panama Relocation Guide, which has the same information that you’d get on a tour, but for a fraction of the costs. It even includes our rolodex of reliable contacts for immigration lawyers, honest real estate agents, where to buy health insurance, international movers, and much more.
Don’t take our word for it, read what previous tour clients have to say:
Thanks Panama Relocation Tours for putting together a stress-free itinerary which totally surpassed our expectations.
For anyone considering an exploratory trip to Panama, Jackie Lange’s Panama Relocation Tour is a must! The 6 day trip took us through so many different living environments from expat communities in Coronado, to homes in Las Tablas and David to our final stopping point in Boquete and Volcan.
On the trip you get a chance to experience what to expect living in different regions of Panama sampling weather, costs and variety of food, typical shopping experiences and housing offerings. The tour is comprehensive encompassing everything from the nuts-and-bolts to moving to Panama, tax considerations, how and why to hire an attorney, insurance considerations, opportunities for expats and so much, much more. Tour recipients leave with plenty of great documentation to refer to after the trip.
This is so much more than a bus trip with stops in different parts Panama. It’s an experience that convinced us that the people and the country of Panama is a place that my wife and I will return to again for a much longer stay (if not permanently)!
I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this trip to anyone who’d like to explore the possibility of relocating to Panama. Panama Relocation Tours has it all and more!
I just returned from Jackie’s September Tour and it far exceeded my expectations! She is so down to earth, informative, and knowledgeable for people wishing to relocate, visit, begin a business, or simply invest in Panama. Jackie speaks from experience. She has done everything she recommends. Her classroom is a tour bus, hotel lobbies, restaurants eating chips and salsa, coffee houses, and chatting with others. I learned so much about life, investing, living, and streamlining my life. I was walking in Boquete (Panama) looking to get my teeth cleaned, she pulled up in her car and said “hop in I’ll take you there!” She didn’t have to do that. It is just the way she is. The tour inspired me to write a book, hire a virtual assistant, expand my businesses, and rent some new places in Panama to get started! Jackie is a resource who will be by your side every step of the way. Her help doesn’t stop when the tour ends, it will last as long as her clients need to get started in Panama. Jackie is a mentor and a role model for me. Thanks, Jackie, for all you do.