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Wednesday, April 23 2014 @ 07:48 PM EDT

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FAQ: "Can I Get to See Construction Permits?"

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Someone recently asked the question: "A neighbor is building something next door, and I don't think they have the proper construction permits. I went to the local Municipal Engineer, and they refused to show be the permits. Isn't that public information? Don't they have to show me the permits?"

Excellent Question: In Panama it's common for people to just build things almost willy-nilly with no approved architectural plans, approvals, or permits from the local government. Of course it's not supposed to be this way. There are laws and regulations in place requiring anyone who's going to build anything, anywhere in the country, to have a full set of approved plans, drawn up by an architect and signed off by a plumber and an electrician. They are supposed to get a permit to build based on those plans before any construction starts. Then once the construction is completed there's a series of inspections that must be completed before the government will issue an occupancy permit, meaning that people can safely inhabit the structure. That's the law. The problem is that in many cases people don't follow the law, and they do practically whatever the hell they want. This is more true the further you get away from Panama City or any other large city or town, or any form of centralized government.

Little "Matchbox" Houses Everywhere: Does anyone really think that every little house thrown up by poor Panamanians in the interior actually has approved plans and permits? Of course they don't. These people are so poor they can barely afford to buy a few sacks of cement at a time, or a hundred cement blocks to put up walls - there's no room in the budget for things like plans, or fees for permits. That's reality on the ground.

Who's Responsible: No matter where you live in Panama there's a local Mayor somewhere who is the elected official responsible for that area. As part of his staff he will have a "Municipal Engineer" - and this is the guy who is supposed to receive and review the plans, make sure they have all of the proper stamps, and issue the permits. It's an relatively powerful position because if you don't go through him, then by law you can't build anything. These guys very often abuse their positions to suck bribes and money out of people who are trying to build something (the right way.) They will slow down the process by sitting on paperwork, and then it magically speeds up as soon as the wheels are greased. In some cases unscrupulous individuals would rather just toss $100 bucks to the Municipal Engineer to ignore them and leave them alone, because that's cheaper than having to pay an architect to draw up the plans, get the stamps from the plumber and electrician, and to get the permits issued. It's one thing if you're trying to put a roof over the heads of your family at the poverty - subsistence level (dirt poor) and another thing altogether when a relatively rich gringo is just trying to skimp a few bucks by circumventing the system. And, they are fostering corruption at the same time. Not good. Anyway, the "responsible individual" is the Municipal Engineer, who works for the Mayor.

Building Permits are Public Documents: By law, anyone can walk into the office of the Municipal Engineer and demand to see any building permit for any structure. They are public documents. However if a builder has paid a bribe to the Municipal Engineer instead of going through the process of getting the plans and permits, then most likely the plans and permits don't exist. The Municipal Engineer will deny your request to see the plans and permits, because they simply don't exist. He knows they don't exist, but he's not about to tell you the truth by saying "well, I can't show you those because I got bribed to look the other way. Would you like a glass of water?" No, he's going to lie, stall, tell you to get lost, tell you that he doesn't have to show them to you, make up all kinds of stuff, threaten to take some kind of action against you if you mess with him (meaning, expose him as a corrupt local official), etc. Basically, his message will be "get lost" and he's hoping that you just go away and never come back.

Put It In Writing: If everything is on the up-and-up, you can probably just walk into the office of the Municipal Engineer and ask to see the plans and permits - and they will pull them out and show them to you - no documentation required. If, however, you walk in and ask and you get the stonewalling, lying, corrupt local official routine, then you have to drop back a step and start to document your actions. Write up a simple letter (in Spanish) asking to see the plans and permits for the building in question. You don't have to explain why you want to see them, because you already have a legal right to see these public documents. State clearly that you expect a response within a set time period, like 15 calender days. Bring the original and a copy with you. When you deliver the original, make sure to have them sign and date your copy as the "received" copy for your files. That way, later, you can prove that you actually delivered this letter, and that the office of the Municipal Engineer received the letter. You might also want to provide a copy to the Mayor's office, just in case the Municipal Engineer is acting on his own without the Mayor's knowledge or consent. Then, wait the 15 days. At the end of that time, go back to pick up your copy of the plans and permits. If they don't provide them, then drop another letter on them to document their failure to comply with your simple request.

File A Writ of "Habeas Data" - There is a law in Panama which covers public documents. The concept here is known as "habeas data" - meaning that you can file a request through the judicial system to demand the fulfillment of your rights to see that information. Now - this part is important. Because the Municipal Engineer works for the Mayor, and the local Mayor is an elected official, then it falls to the Superior Tribunal to resolve these issues. The local "corregidors" (Justice of the Peace) work for the Mayor as well, so that won't work. And by law this kind of action has to be filed with the Superior Tribunal because they will in effect be ordering the Mayor to comply with your request. If you are in Portobelo for example, which is in the province of Colon, the Superior Tribunals which are responsible for that area are in Panama City. So, they could order the Mayor of Portobelo and the local Municipal Engineer to provide the information. In Bocas del Toro, for example, the Superior Tribunal is in David.

It Doesn't Have To Be Complicated: The law is designed to make it simple. You don't need a lawyer to file a writ of "habeas data" with the Superior Tribunal. Of course you can ask a lawyer to help you draw it up if you want to, and that will likely increase your chances of success, but in fact you can simply state the details of the situation in a simple letter to the court as an individual citizen. These things can be filed by a person, or by a legal entity, such as a Panamanian corporation. Include copies of the letters you sent to the Municipal Engineer as evidence, as well as the simple statements of what's going on. Obviously if you are concerned about a particular property or building that's under construction, you should include the details about the case or situation, photos, etc. Give the court as much information as possible, to help them decide the case in your favor. These are "easy" cases for the courts because it's a no-brainer. If there's a building under construction, then by law there must be a plan and permits, and the law also states those are public information, and this member of the public wants to see them, so make a copy and deliver. So ordered. It's not complicated for the courts, however now that you have this order in your hand, life might get very complicated for the local corrupt government officials.

Go Back And Present The Order: Once the court issues their decision in your favor, return to the office of the Municipal Engineer. By this time the local guys, and the person who was doing the building, have probably gone back and "created" the documents - complete with back dating and signatures - in order to paper their butts to avoid the pain. In the end you will probably get copies of these plans and permits, and all you've really accomplished is that you've forced them to go out and create more bogus paperwork. Anyway, for what it's worth, that's the answer to the question. There are all kinds of sets of information that are supposed to be "public access" in Panama according to the law, and there are all kinds of corrupt government officials who are trying to keep it hidden from prying eyes anyway. Happy hunting, and good luck.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: I Want To See A Baseball Game

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this morning via email: "Hello, Myself and family will be visiting PC on April 16 and 17 and were hoping to attend a baseball game. If not baseball then a soccer match. I have been searching all over the internet and can’t find any information (schedule, etc.) do you by chance know where I would find that kind of information (or do you by chance know)? Thank you for your time, much appreciated! Mike"

Editor's Comment: Hmmm. Well, I know Panama's version of Major League Baseball is playing games right now at the National Stadium - I see the results every day on the morning news broadcast - like Los Santos vs. Herrera, or Panama Metro vs. Bocas del Toro. The league is set up with teams representing each of the provinces, and there are games played both "home" and "away" for each team. I suspect the upcoming games and schedules as well as results and standings are published in the sports section of the newspaper every day. The "Rod Carew" National Stadium is located in Panama City and it's easy to get to if you have a driver, rent a car, or take a taxi. The entrance to the park is very cheap (forget how much) but compared to the stadiums in the States it's practically free. For example, if you follow this link you can see the results from last night's games, and you also see that tonight Bocas del Toro (visitor) will play Chiriqui (home) at the Kenny Serracin stadium there at 7:30 pm tonight. You can always go to the Sports (Deportes) section of the La Prensa newspaper and look for "Campeonato Nacional de Béisbol Mayor" (National Championship of Major League Baseball) and then below that click on "Ver resultados completos" (view complete results). A lot of famous Panamanian players who wind up playing in the United States cut their teeth in these local stadiums as kids. The photo is an image of one of Panama's most famous athletes, Rod Carew, when he graced the cover of Time Magazine on July 18, 1977. His batting average was an amazing .388 that year, and the National Baseball Stadium in Panama City is named after him. Anyway, good luck, and have fun.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Info On Beach Rentals From Locals?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this morning via email: "How do I find information regarding beach rentals from locals? Thank you for your assistance. Doug Clark." Panamanians who own property and who wish to rent it out will use either real estate agents, classified ads, or services such as encuentra24.com or Craig's List Panama. Everyone who is trying to either sell or rent a property is basically in competition against everyone else who has a property for rent or for sale, so the most energetic are the most likely to be seen. You can surf to the La Prensa newspaper (prensa.com) and check through their classified ads. You could also try doing Google searches using some keywords in Spanish: "Panama" "playa" "aquilar" "apartamento" "condo" "condominium" - for example. And of course I would always recommend using the highly skilled real estate agents who advertise their services on this website as well - they frequently list apartment vacation beach apartment rentals. And finally you can always just drive out to the area that you're interested in and ask around. Someone will refer you to their Aunt Maria who knows a guy who has a place - but watch out for gringo pricing. Good luck.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Is The Road To San Blas Open?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Hi Don, I was just wondering if you had any reports on the road to San Blas recently? We wanted to drive over to the islands as we heard that the bridge had been built and you no longer had to drive through the river, however, all that I can find on the internet is that the road was closed in early December because of the floods?! Any more news on that front that you know of? And do you know if the bridge has been built over the river? Thanks for any info, kind regards."

I Have No Idea: If anyone has been out that way recently, please post a response in the comments. Thanks.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Does ACP Manage The Water From The Miraflores Plant?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Am I correct in this: that if you live in the former canal zone, and get your water from Miraflores, that its the ACP and not IDAAN that manages our water? Thanks."

Well, Kinda: The ACP runs and manages the Miraflores Water Treatment Plant, however the IDAAN actually is responsible for the tubes and pipes to deliver the water once it leaves the plant. They also bill you, etc.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Do I Need A Passport to Visit Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "If one does not have a passport what other means is necessary in order for a U.S. Citizen from the United States need to visit Panama?"

I Think You Need A Passport: I might be wrong, but I think a valid US passport is necessary to enter Panama, right? The following information comes from the Panama specific page of the US State Department website:

  • ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Panama must present a valid passport when entering or re-entering the United States. Sea travelers must have a valid U.S. passport (or other original proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID). Complete information for American citizens is available on the Passport Information page at travel.state.gov or by calling 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on applying for a passport.

  • Panamanian law requires that travelers present a passport valid for at least three months, and must either purchase a tourist card at the airport in Panama before clearing customs, or obtain a multiple entry visa from a Panamanian embassy or consulate before traveling to Panama. Further information may be obtained from the Embassy of Panama, 2862 McGill Terrace NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel. (202) 483-1407, or the Panamanian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan or Tampa.

  • As of August 26, 2008, U.S. tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 90 days, without extension. If they want to stay longer, a “change of migratory status visa” should be requested through a Panamanian lawyer before the expiration of the 90 days in country. An initial fee of $250.00 must be paid for the “change of migratory status visa.” Please note that the approval of the change in migratory status falls under the Panamanian Immigration Office’s discretion.

  • More information on visa types and the necessary steps to take in Panama is available at the National Migration website.

  • U.S. citizens transiting the Panama Canal as passengers who do not plan on disembarking from the ship do not need to obtain visas, report to customs, or pay any fees. If citizens plan to disembark, they need to obtain a tourist card from the cruise line or a visa at a Panamanian embassy or consulate prior to traveling. If they are piloting private craft or planes, then they need to have a pre-stamped visa from a Panamanian Embassy or consulate, as do persons crossing into Panama by land. U.S. citizens piloting private craft through the canal should contact the Panama Canal Authority at (011) 507-272-4567, (011) 507-272-4200, (011) 507-272-1111 or consult the Canal Authority web site to make an appointment.

  • Minors who are citizens (including dual-citizens) or legal residents of Panama are required to present birth certificates and notarized consent from both parents (in Spanish) in order to exit the country if not accompanied by both parents. This documentation is required at all land, sea, and air ports. Even if minors are not documented as Panamanian citizens and are documented as American citizens, they may be denied departure.

  • Visit the Consular Services tab of the Embassy of Panama website for the most current visa information.

  • Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Panama. Panamanian immigration does not require an HIV/AIDS test, but Panamanian law does allow for deportation upon discovery by immigration. Embassy Panama is not aware of any American citizens who have been deported due to HIV/AIDS. Should you have questions, you may wish to inquire directly with the Embassy of Panama before you travel.

  • Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

So, If You're Flying In, You Need A Passport: There are obviously allowances made for tourists arriving on cruise ships, or passing through the Panama Canal with no intention of disembarking. However, if you're planning on spending any serious time at all in Panama it's worth the time, expense, and hassle to get yourself a passport. Hope this helps.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Is Panama a Safe Place to Live?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is Panama a safe place to live? Many Internet websites promoting Panama claim that the country is very safe, yet I often hear about violent crime on the news. How safe is Panama? Is it a safe place for me and my family?

(Update: This article was originally published on 2 August 2006, but I'm going to push it back to the top of the pile because of the recent spat of violent home invasion robberies in the Coronado area. Just ignore the parts of the article that refer to five year old stuff, like the election of Martin Torrijos, for example.)

Answer: This is a tough one. I've lived here for twenty years and have never been the victim of a violent crime. Any outside observer is going to receive mixed signals due to crossed purposes from information sources. The news media makes money and draws viewers or readers by reporting on violent crime (See: "If It Bleeds, It Leads...") so they have a tendency to over-report and place too much emphasis on crime. People and companies promoting Panama would like to convince you that Panama is a perfectly safe haven of tranquility, safety, and security. Both are wrong, which leaves the reader in the middle trying to pick fact and reality from a mixed offering of rose-colored fiction and blood-stained sensionalization. I'll try to sort it out for you... (more)

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FAQ: Which Is Better - Pensionado or Married To A Panamanian?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This question came up today on the Americans in Panama Yahoo email group: "Question.....I have a Pensionado Visa here in Panama.....indefinite term. I am married to a Panamanian. Is there an advantage to me to obtain a different visa.....perhaps a "married to Panamanian" visa....or, is there something else I need to know that I am not aware of? Dual citizenship?"

My Answer: . As a "married to a Panamanian" you apply through immigration for permanent residency. This is much different than the "pensionado" status - which is really just an indefinite visitor visa status with a few perks. As a "married to a Panamanian" you will eventually be given a Cedula and permanent residency. You only have to renew your cedula every ten years or whatever when it expires, just like everyone else. It's easier to do things like open bank accounts, obtain loans, etc. There are other benefits as well. For example, five years after obtaining a cedula you can legally obtain a license to sell real estate. And, there are other similar kinds of things. Having a cedula makes living in Panama full time a whole lot easier. The whole process takes about two years and there are interviews to make sure you are "really" married - questions like "what color are the curtains in the living room" and "does your husband snore" - stuff like that. And, since I am receiving a pension from the US government as a military retiree, I also qualify for all of the benefits associated with the "pensionado" programs, so for me it's a "two-fer" sort of deal.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Panama's Ricardo Martinelli Cancels Trip to Tuxtla Summit in Cartagena

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsPanamanian president Ricardo Martinelli has cancelled his trip to attend the XII Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Tuxtla Mechanism of Dialogue and Agreement, which starts Monday in Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia. This information was confirmed by the Secretary of State Communication, Alfredo Prieto, who would not elaborate on the reasons for the cancellation of the trip. He added that the President has scheduled a meeting of the Cabinet Council for tomorrow, October 26. Martinelli returned to Panama yesterday after an official trip to several Asian countries that lasted nine days. Today he was scheduled to attend the Summit of Tuxtla, where for two days leaders will discuss issues of energy and communications infrastructure in the region. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Really. I wonder why he cancelled. Maybe because there are ten governments represented under this agreement, and with Martinelli's withdraw now only five presidents will be attending. Maybe he pulled out because the presidents of Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic won't be there either. Whatever.

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RFI: Recycling in Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Hi Don, We are big fans of the website, keep up the good work! We just back to Panama after a few years in Europe, and one thing that has really struck us now is the apparent lack of recycling facilities in PTY, or maybe we just dont know about it? How about an ex-pat guide to recycling in the city, sure it would be welcomed by those of us from more environmentally conscientious countries! Best. Andrew"

Recycling Driven By The Money: Most recycling in Panama is done by drunks and crack-heads who rummage through garbage bins to scrounge for paper, aluminum, copper, or other things they can haul down to the places that pay for these materials in bulk. They normally work like a dog until they have enough money - about $5 bucks - to get either a bottle of Seco or a few rocks of crack, then they drop the whole "work" thing to go get stoned. It is possible to separate your own garbage and bring it there yourself, however I would not recommend it because most of these places are located in Curundu, Chorrillo - you know, where the crack heads are. I don't know of anyplace that buys or recycles plastics, for example. But you're right, there's room for growth in this area in Panama. I know of one place that pays 11 cents per pound for newspaper, down by the brewery just off of Tumba Muerto. There are scrap metal dealers who export cargo containers full of scrap metal (mostly on ships to Asia) every day. However at the residential level it's practically unheard of in this country.

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Panama National Census on 16 May 2010 - Be Counted or Go To Jail

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Here's a great question that I received via email this morning: "Hi Don, Maybe a subject for a new article: the "count" as planned for Sunday 16th May. To my surprise, this is not known to many (I only found out yesterday myself ...), and different rumours circulate on what to do / not do on that day. Ranging from "stay at home untill you are counted" (expats)" to "don't bother.... (locals)". Maybe you can shine a light... Best regards, and keep it up with the best English web in Panamá !! John" I've heard the same stories and rumors but don't have the official answer. From what I understand Panama conducts an official national census once every ten years, and the next one is scheduled for Sunday, 16 May 2010. Also, I have been told that it's illegal to leave your house on that day until after you have been counted. Once you have been counted then you will be given a document that you can show if asked. If you are out on the street without the document you will be arrested. And, I have to assume that would apply to everyone except tourists. I guess if you could show your passport with a current and valid tourist stamp, then you would be exempted from the count. Anyway, if anyone has any additional information, or more solid or substantial details, please add to the comments section. Thanks.

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Use the "Holy Trinity" To Cover Your Ass When Buying Real Estate in Panama

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this morning via email to the Americans In Panama Yahoo! email chat group: "Subject: Americans In Panama - Property Search - I have been researching a variety of properties online (pre-owned) and have been in contact with the real estate agent or owner of several. We are hoping to travel to Panama in January to visit these properties. Would the group members recommend we have our own real estate agent to represent us as we visit properties and in any possible purchase, or just an attorney for the purchase process? Secondly, when we do find a property to purchase, is it recommended that we stay in country for duration of the process, or can we initiate it there, return to the US and complete it from here? Patrice K."

Jam Packed With Smart Questions: Congratulations, Patrice. You've asked a whole string of very intelligent questions, to the point that I decided to "lift" your article from the Americans in Panama Yahoo! group and turn it into a full fledged FAQ article. Everyone should know the answers to your smart questions. In short, there are three things you should do to protect yourself when buying property in Panama - which I call the "Holy Trinity" - hire a buyer's agent, hire your own lawyer, and get a bank mortgage even if you don't need a loan. Allow me to explain... (more)

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FAQ: Will Panama Be All Screwed Up On Mother's Day?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Hi Don - I love reading Panama Guide! Thanks for providing this great service. I will be visiting Panama City beginning Dec. 7th, and am trying to find out if the shops in Panama close for the Mother's Day holiday. Will I be able to shop on the 8th? How about trying to catch a bus to Bocas del Toro? Will the buses be filled with holiday travelers? I'd appreciate your best guess on what to expect. Thanks, Joyce." This year mother's day, the 8th of December, falls on a Tuesday. As such it won't work for a long weekend, so therefore there probably won't be many people traveling or abandoning Panama City en mass such as they do for the Independence Day celebrations, Christmas and New Year, carnival, or holy week. And if I remember correctly I think most shops and stores will be open on that day, but government offices will most likely be closed. Also, there might be a few more passengers than normal on the buses to the interior, but not so many as to make getting a seat impossible. Best of luck.

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Procedures To Avoid Probate If Someone Dies?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Here's a question I received via email and I don't know the answer - maybe one of the lawyers could please step up and offer some insight? "I have a question on the laws if a person dies and he doesn't leave a will has alot of land, has family , wife, children, and grandchildren, why does it take years to give it to the immediate family still alive.. ? Why I ask is because an Uncle who died in 2002 and nothing is being given to the family he left behind, it is still in the courts." From what I understand the process for family members can be tough, long, and difficult, especially if there was no will. There are things you can do to prevent getting sucked into this kind of problem, but I don't know what they are... Again, lawyers?

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: I'm A Doctor - Can I Practice Medicine In Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I get this kind of question frequently: "Don, Do you know of any hospitals or physician practices in Panama that need a pathologist (generalist)? Regards, Mike M.D." Sorry, Mike, but foreigners can not practice medicine in Panama. Period. This is one of the professions closed to outsiders, and the doors are pretty tightly shut. There are a few flying along the edges (like Chiropractors) but no one openly practicing or advertising. In short, if you're not a Panamanian then you won't be practicing medicine in Panama.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: How Much Should I Pay For A Taxi From Tocumen?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Seems to be a more popular question lately: "Does anyone know the going rate for a taxi from Tocumen to El Cangrejo. What price should I expect, so I don't get chumped. Thanks" About $25 dollars is the standard rate for a taxi from Tocumen to Panama City. The price includes all passengers and luggage. Expect to pay a little more if you have to go out to the Amador Causeway, for example.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Please Add Me To Your Mailing List

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I get this one all the time - "Would you please add this e-mail address to your e-mail list. Thanks. Alice" I send out an email broadcast practically every day containing links to the headlines I publish on Panama-Guide. The easiest way to receive those broadcasts is to subscribe to the Panama-Guide Yahoo! email group. This group is not a social chat group and its only function is to give me a way to quickly and easily broadcast the headlines. If you want to get the headlines and participate in a social chatting network about Panama, then you can join the Americans in Panama Yahoo! email group, which has almost 4,000 members. Thanks for your interest.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: How Much Should I Pay For A Cab from Tocumen to Casco Viejo?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - "Don, I was wondering if someone could tell me what a typical cab fare from the Tocumen Airport to the Casco Viejo area would be approximately. I had already called on a recommended driver - he quoted $30 - but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be overcharged unknowingly... Sorry to bother you with a trivial question like this, but I have looked on the Panama Guide site and others on the internet, and have not been able to find the info... Thank you for your time!! Ammie" No such thing as a trivial question when you're making your way around in unfamiliar territory, Ammie. $30 bucks for a cab from Tocumen to Casco Viejo sounds about right - if you're paying that much you're not being terribly overcharged. Have a nice visit.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Where Can A Get A Military ID Card Renewed?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - "Hello Don, Do you have knowledge of anywhere in Panama to get my wife's military dependent id card renewed? If not, do you know where she would need to go? I can't find anything on the Consulate website, and Homestead AFB can't help. Thanks, Bob." Sure. You can go to the Retiree Services Office (RSO), located in Building 9 on Corozal in the same area where the Panamanian police have their Institutional Protection Service (SPI). The are open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00 am until 12:00 noon only. This office is manned by volunteers, and they can help you fill out the correct forms and send them to Puerto Rico where your wife's new ID card will actually be produced. In order to apply for a new card you will need a current 8 x 10 photo of your wife with a white background. Also, you will have to get the form, fill it out, and then take it to the Americans Citizens Services section of the consulate in order to have it validated and certified (no cost there, just time and hassle.) Note: Do not sign the form until you are in front of the Consul! Bring your own ID card and passport just in case. And, kids don't need an ID card until they are ten years old. Hope this helps.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: What Is A "Push Button"

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Question: Please advise what is meant as "Push-Button" which is described in the articles relating to the slaying of Mr. Dudley.

Answer: In Panama there are places, basically motels, that are used by people for short term sexual encounters. They are designed so that the customers and staff have no eye-to-eye contact. Each of the rooms has a single parking space in front. If the door is open then that room is currently unoccupied and is available. You pull your car in, roll down the window, and "push the button" to close the garage door behind you - hence the name "push button." (more)

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FAQ: Is it safe to invest in Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: I am looking at Panama as a potential investment. I don't own anything in Panama yet. At this point I am just trying to figure out it it's safe to invest there.

Answer: Ah, the ultimate $64 Billion Dollar question. The question being asked by everyone, every day, all over Panama and around the world. How long will the construction boom last? Will the bubble burst? Can I safely invest my money in Panama or will I lose money if I do? In reality the only thing you can do is follow the news and trends, keep your ear to the ground and make your own personal decisions as to the relative safety or risk of investing in this market. (more)
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FAQ: How Can I Get A Stun Gun?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: I would like to know how did you get your Panther stun gun. Can I order one online from the states? Are there any restrictions on having it imported to Panama? Where can I buy one in Panama City?

Answer: I bought mine used from a friend here in Panama City. I know others who have ordered them online and they entered the country through customs with no problems besides having to pay whatever import taxes. You might want to order one from eBay or something so that if it gets lost in the mail you're not out a whole lot of money. They do sell them in town at gun stores and at the Machetazo for example. You should get one that puts out as many volts as possible, uses two 9 volt batteries for juice, and that fits your hand comfortably. "Play" with it enough to get comfortable with it, and to be able to use it quickly if needed. Remember that if you energize the unit and pull the trigger you'll get the "zap" sound, but be careful because there will be a remaining static charge even after you let go of the trigger. These are not toys and should only be used by responsible adults in emergency situations as a non-lethal defensive measure. With all of that having been said, time to go wake up the cat... (grin)
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FAQ: Pensionado Discounts at Hotels

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: I have not found one single hotel in Boquete that will honor the 50% pensionado discount. I really think everyone is promoting Panama using these benefits as a pure marketing strategy but in reality the pensionado benefits are not honored. If I am wrong please provide a list of hotels in Boquete that honor the pensionado discount.

Answer: Panamanian law requires hotels to give those who qualify as pensionados a minimum discount of the regular prices of hotels, 50% from Monday to Thursday and 30% on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They tend to get around this by posting a higher "regular" rate and then giving a "discount" to everyone. Enforcement is lax and the government will only get involved if someone is willing to file an official complaint Panama's National Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition Authority (Autoridad de Proteccion al Consumidor y Defensa de la Competencia). Please see this search for related articles. The phone number for the office in Chiriqui is 775-2536. They will be happy to listen to your complaint, just make sure you have the details straight. If a hotel owner or manager refuses to honor the discount simply pay the bill and report the incident. This holds true for hotels and all other businesses that are supposed to offer discounts to pensionados. The list of hotels is "all of them."

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hi don

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions<p><b>Question:</b> Hi Don, I'm an American looking to purchase a home in Panama, now as a holiday home and ultimately as a place to spend half the year. Would you please give me any thoughts and reco's on where I should focus my attention -- what are in your view the nicest areas, the best values, the smartest places to invest, etc.? Thank you!

<p><b>Answer:</b> The first decision you have to make is if you want to be in Panama City, on the beach, in the mountains, Boquete, Bocas, Pacific or Atlantic, etc. If you've never been to Panama before I suggest you make a couple of trips down to try things on before you buy anything. Just rent a car and ramble around the country. Then, once you think you know what you like, rent there and live for awhile. Assuming you were asking about Panama City, in reality it's all about the same. The waterfront properties along Balboa Avenue are "hot" right now. The neighborhoods of San Francisco, El Cangrejo, Costa del Este all have lots of buildings going up. It really comes down to personal preferences and what matters most to you. Anything with a view will retain it's value. I know that's a "non-answer" but it's the best I can do.
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FAQ: Why Are There Cracks in the Walls?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I've noticed that in Panama it is fairly common to see cracks in the walls of buildings, including in newly constructed apartments. Are they sinking? What causes this problem?

Answer: For the most part this surface cracking is considered "normal." Most buildings in Panama constructed from poured concrete have very solid columns, beans, and poured floors, but the spaces between those solid structures are filled in with cement blocks and then plastered over with a thin layer of cement (called repello.) Concrete and cement are porous materials and they tend to absorb water. Once the walls are up and covered with repello and paint then they slowly dry out and shrink. Eventually small cracks form in the walls, but these are only surface cracks and do not indicate any compromise in the structural integrity of the building. If you see these kinds of cracks in the walls of your new apartment, I suggest you fix in the same way as most Panamanians - paint.

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FAQ: Do I Need A Local Address to Open a Bank Account?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I am trying to identify a step-by-step list of what I need to do to relocate to Panama, and I have bought a lot in Altos del Maria. I saw that there are a few things necessary to open a local bank account, but do I need a local mailing address? Kind regards, Kristina.

Answer: From Stuart Jackson at GSL Real Estate: "Don It is not necessary to have a local address to open a bank account. All you really need is your passport, 2 reference letters from financial institutions that you have dealt with for several years (only one with some banks), a person to refer you and the money to open it with. Most accounts can be opened with $500 but some banks ask for $1000." And from Matt Landau at thepanamareport.com - "When I opened a bank account a local address was indeed required, however I don't think it was ever checked or verified--meaning that if I was to have given the address of a friends apartment or even my soon-to-be address, I think it would have been fine. To this day, I don't know how they'd validate my address considering the directions are so darn confusing." (more)

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FAQ: Can I Ship A Vehicle That I Still Owe Money On

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsQuestion: We are currently working on relocating to Panama and would appreciate it if you could confirm or deny whether we are allowed to ship an automobile into Panama that we are still making payments on? If not-do you know the proper folks to address this issue?

Answer: Excellent question. I got some feedback from a couple of people to answer this. According to Kevin Bradley, "Don; Several of my Expat clients have shipped cars to Panama with existing loans. Before the auto left the USA, I had to provide proof of full coverage with a Panama licensed Insurance company to the Bank or Credit Union. The policy was required to have an endorsement designating that financial institution as lien holder. Each year, I have to provide the lien holder a copy of the renewal until the loan is paid off. Kevin Bradley" (more)

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Mortgage from banks in Panama

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsThe article about applying for a mortgage from banks in Panama was very helpful to us. We dealt with couple of Banks from Panama and didn't get nowhere. After purchasing a condominium in Gorgona Beach, we need to finance 80 % of the purchase price. I am getting in touch with Banco National today about the mortgage. By the way if anyone is interested in purchasing a condominium in Panama in Gorgona beach there is still few left. We searched for a long time till we found a nice place and a reasonable price. We traveled to Panama back in April of this year and after seeing the place we just couldn't pass up the deal.
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FAQ: Can I Become a Panamanian Citizen?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I understand that if I move to Panama and live here for years then eventually I will be able to apply for naturalization and become a Panamanian citizen. But, I also understand that I must renounce my citizenship from the United States in order to do so? I would like to become a "dual citizen" and retain my US citizenship. Is this possible?

Answer: Panamanian nationality law requires (as does US naturalization law) an oath of renunciation of former citizen-ships as a condition of naturalization. That said, under current US Supreme Court interpretations the Panamanian oath is "non-meaningful" and therefore does not affect one's US citizenship except possibly were the US, new Panamanian, citizen were to affirmatively swear before the US consular officer that he or she did indeed intend to renounce US citizenship when taking the Panamanian oath and the US Department of State on review of the facts were to issue the certificate of loss of US nationality. There are numerous cases of US citizens acquiring Panamanian nationality who continue to enjoy US citizenship, retention of their US passports, et. (By: RR)

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FAQ: How Can I Get a Mortgage from a Bank in Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I would like some input from people who applied for a mortgage from a bank in Panama with info such as application process, down payment required, number of years financed, current interest rates with good credit, whether banks look at U.S. credit rating, recommendation of favorable banks, any information would be greatly appreciated.

Answer (From Warren): We talked to Continental Bank, Banco General, HSBC and BancoNational. We applied at HSBC and after three months gave up on them and applied at Banco General. Four months later we told Banco General to not bother us with any more requests for documents and applied at Banco National. I must say here that I owned a Mortgage Brokerage Company in Oregon for 14 years before retired and moved to Costa Rica and then Panama. I had in one file all information they could possibly need to precess our application but could not get the loan officers to accept the information. They have a system, you see. The ask for one document and when they have spent weeks approving that document they ask for more. That was our experience with first two places we applied. I know others may have different experiences so wanted you to know what has to be the worst case. At Banco National the loan officer could not get her hands on the information we had soon enough. She was very good at her job. We received a 3% interest loan on 80% of the purchase price. Seems they do not give higher LTV to North Americans. Have heard that is because, we have heard, is because of all the loan that went bad when North Americans left in 98 thru 2000. The bank charges were including all costs were 820.00. Hope this answers some of your questions about the process and results.

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