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Panama Guide

Welcome to Panama Guide
Wednesday, April 16 2014 @ 03:02 PM EDT

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FAQ: Panama or Costa Rica?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I am considering retiring in Costa Rica or Panama. I have learned that Panama has many more and better incentives to retire there. As people who have lived in Costa Rica perhaps you may be able to tell me which Country is better for retirement. Why are you looking to move to Panama?

Answer: By David - Costa Rica has become a very dangerous place for Gringos who are singled out as a better mark. I lived there for ten years from 1992 to 2003 and accumulated a wide circle of friends. All of them had been assalted or robbed at least once. After awhile you become radicalized and double lock everything and are fearful to walk on the street without constantly checking behind you for the lurking ladrone. Costa Rican culture is NON CONFRONTATIONAL and no one will come to your aid if you are attacked so the banditos are very brazen. Oftentimes they are intentionally overlooked by the police for propina or family/friend associations. I got out, and ALL OF THE GRINGOS I know are either out or in the process of leaving, many to Panama and Nicaragua, some to Asia. I don´t believe it will profit you much to visit there for a short time to get the feel of it. In my opinion it takes at least a year to penetrate the veneer of a culture to see what´s really going on. I suggest that you read AM Costa Rica on your computer every Monday for more information, bearing in mind that they are also "selling papers" and so are not completely objective.

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RFI - Tech and Television

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: Do you know if hi-def television is available in Panama City? We would like to receive all of the US networks in English. Is this possible? Do you have an opinion on Cable Onda vs. Directv? Any thoughts on who is best for high speed internet?

Answer: I've seen high definition televisions for sale and I think there might be an occasional HDTV program via cable (but I'm not really sure about that.) You can get some of the US network channels via either Cable TV or DirecTv but not all. In order to get them all you have to install your own dish and pay for a subscription - it can be done but it's costly. Personally, I prefer Cable Onda to DirecTv if given a choice, and I'm also using Cable Onda cable modem for high speed internet access. Anyone with additional or better information please add in the comments. Thanks.

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RFI - Are There Indoor Raquetball Courts In Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: I have been trying to find out if Panama has a indoor racquet ball court. So far I have been told there are no public courts, that some condominimums buildings have private courts, and that there might be outdoor courts at Clayton. I would like to get with someone who enjoys the game and play when I visit Panama in October.

Answer: The Raquet Club of Panama is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. Their telephone number is 260-6884 or 260-4816. The manager's name is Pablo Sanchez and his cell number is 6673-2140. They are located near the Plaza Edison. To get there from Tumba Muerto when passing the Plaza Edison on your right hand side take the next left at the traffic light and go down the hill. There is a tall apartment building on your left. Turn left at the street and the Raquet Club is basically right behind that tall apartment building. They have three squash courts and one raquetball court. Pablo recommends that you call ahead to make reservations. This is a semi-private club but anyone can walk in off the street and pay to play. There are also indoor courts at the gym on Clayton. Hopefully someone can gather the information about Clayton and post a comment with the details.

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FAQ: Is There Mail Service in Santiago, Veraguas?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: We have just recently purchased a home/property in Santiago, Veraguas, Panama. We are wondering if there is a U.S. mail service that would be available in Santiago? I know that Boquete & David have this available. Thank you! I appreciate your time! Alice

Answer: Great question. I have no idea. Is anyone providing this service? Please let me know (don@panama-guide.com)

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FAQ: What the Heck was That? (Large Black Cat)

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: Today on a run down from Altos del Maria to Bejuca I witnessed a totally black, 5-6' long, 1 1/2-2' high with a long tail above and then behind BIG CAT go from one side of the roads' foliage into the other sides foliage. It was slim and silky and was only about 30' in front of my car. Very graceful and was moving at a good clip but did not bolt as I approached. Any ideas? John

Answer: That was probably a Black Panther, or more accurately speaking a Jaguar with Melanistic coloration. Lucky you, John. That's a rare sighting indeed. Please do us all a favor and toss a digital camera in your car... (more)
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FAQ: How Long Will This Construction Boom Last?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: There are an amazing number of high-rise buildings being built in Panama City and I constantly hear about plans to build even more. I wonder, how long can this boom last? Will the bubble burst anytime soon?

Answer: That's the $64 Billion Dollar Question. Right now speculation is financing much of the construction. The "lights are out" in a lot of new buildings because end residents have not yet purchased the properties. The sheer numbers of apartments under construction is staggering and any intelligent observer has to wonder how long can it continue. Panama is a hot destination right now and still getting hotter. Those of us who have lived here for a long time have seen changes, but the potential numbers and demographics that are creating this construction boom are impressive. There are dozens of variables and market influences, and no one can see the future, but here's my take on things... (more)

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FAQ: How Are Rates Determined? (Myth - Busted)

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is electricity less expensive in Panama than in the United States? I've heard that poorer sections of town pay a lower rate than more expensive areas. Is that true?

Answer: This question is very common. I get a lot of questions about the price and costs of electricity in Panama. Many want to know how much they can expect to spend and are trying to build a budget for an eventual move to Panama. I looked into the prices of electricity in detail. Many people believe that residents of poorer sections of town pay less for electricity than people in richer or more exclusive parts of town. In fact this notion has become a kind of "Panamanian urban legend." The short answer is that everyone pays the same rate (rich and poor) and the amount you spend is tied directly to your consumption. Use less, pay less. It's really that simple. But, all of the down and dirty details are in this article... (more)

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FAQ: Please Explain the Local Telephone Service Options

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: How much does it cost to get a regular telephone line installed in Panama City? Does it cover all local calls to the city or is there a charge per call or for time? I've heard there are a lot of different plans and service options - what's the difference? Also, can a phone from the United States just plug into the jack or do I need some kind of converter?

Answer It costs $40 to have a phone line installed. You have to present some documents like identification and a water bill or rental contract on your house or apartment. Inside of Panama telephone service is divided up into regions, and all of Panama City is covered under one zone so it's all local calls. There are eight different plans available as options for local service giving you excellent flexibility to choose the plan which best fits your needs and calling requirements. The details and differences of each plan available as well as price and service comparisons are explained below. Also, the phone jacks are the same standard as what's used in the United States. (more)

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FAQ: What Does C/B/E Mean in the Classified Ads for Apartments?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsQuestion: I need to rent an apartment in Panama and I'm looking through the classified ads in La Prensa but there are a lot of abbreviations in the ads. For example, what does c/b/e mean? I need an explanation of how to read the ads.

Answer: C/B/E is shorthand for "cuarto y bano para empleada" or in English a maid's quarters with bath. This answer isn't going to be much more complicated than a listing of vocabulary and translations from Spanish to English. If there's anything that needs explaining I'll lay it out...
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Can I Work in Panama Even Though I've Got a Pensionado Visa?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: I understand I am ineligible for a work permit because I have a pensionado visa, but are retirees currently doing volunteer work or teaching in Panama? Is it easy to do so?

Answer: The "spirit and intent" of the prohibition on retirees getting a work permit is to prevent double dipping. As a pensionado you are entitled to many economic benefits and discounts and the very simple concept behind the prohibition is that you can't be both retired and working (for someone else.) The Panamanian government want to make sure that people who enter Panama on a pensionado visa are not going to take a job away from a Panamanian citizen. Remember that Panamanian citizens also enjoy the same discounts and benefits if they qualify for either age or because they are receiving a pension, but they don't need a visa to live here. (more)
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FAQ: Is It Possible to Pre-Qualify For A Mortgage With A Panamanian Bank

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: My wife and I are planning to visit Panama in September. Is it possible to pre-qualify for a mortgage with a Panamanian bank? Are there mortgage brokers who might handle that and are there any differences between the lending process in Panama and the lending process in the US? If anybody has any first-hand anecdotes both negative and positive regarding their experiences, that would be helpful as well.

Answer: Well, yes and no. It's possible to do many of the things necessary in order to establish a relationship with a bank and to present much of the paperwork required to be approved for a mortgage. This will allow you to get a foot in the door, make some progress and start to figure out the system while you are still shopping around. You can open a savings and checking account, explain to the bank what you are intending to do, about how much you plan on spending, how much you have for a down-payment, and basically do everything you would consider to be part of a "pre-qualification" process. (more)
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FAQ: Retiree Discount in Restaurants Explained

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: I went to a restaurant in Panama City the other day and the owner would not honor the pensionado discount even though I showed him my identification. What can I do about that?

Answer: First of all it doesn't make any sense to get into an argument with either a restaurant owner in a public place over a couple of bucks. There's no need to raise your voice, lose your cool, or argue. Just request the discount you have coming to you according to Panamanian law. If the establishment refuses to honor the discount simply request a writen receipt. Make sure it is detailed with each ordered and broken down by main courses, drinks, etc. Also, ensure it has a date. Usually, simply by asking for a receipt the establishment will honor your discount. But if you don't just take the receipt and leave. The Panamanian Consumer Protection Authority will be happy to stick them with a large fine for breaking the law, and the only thing you need is documentation. (more)

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FAQ: Are Taxis Safe in Panama?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: This week the British consulate in Panama released a general warning to expatirates in Panama after an citizen from the UK was robbed after getting in a taxi at Albrook. There have been several cases in which taxi drivers have robbed their passengers, and there have been some arrests. Can you protect yourself by only using radio taxis that you call from the telephone book (or your hotel or vendor calls for you) instead of getting into random taxis that happen to be driving by when you need a ride?

Answer: Yes, you can. There are more than 45,000 taxis in Panama City, and in an effort to fight pirate taxis and crimes like this the government is going to require them all to be painted bright yellow. The safest way to use taxis is to either call one through one of the radio-taxi services, or start collecting cell phone numbers of drivers you trust. There are a few other things you can do to protect yourself. (more)
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FAQ: What If My Maid Gets Pregnant?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Question: What happens when a live in-maid becomes pregnant in relation to her employment before and after, the child, and her time off? Does the child live in the house with her? I certainly don't want children in my house full time especially at my age. I know she has time off before and after the pregnancy but who does her work? Do I hire a temp? Does she move out of the house? In short, what are my obligations if my live in maid gets pregnant?

Answer: Panamanian law protects women in the workplace and prevents any employer from firing an employee simply because she wants to have children. This section of the labor code applies to all women, domestic employees and maids included. There are elements in the law which specify time off before childbirth and after, how much you are required to pay, replacement workers, and even a section that covers lactating mothers. I'll break it down for you...

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FAQ: What is the pay scale for gardeners and housekeepers?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions

Question - Pay Scale: Surely this topic has been taken before but since I am just moving to Panama any advice would really help. What is the pay scale for gardeners and housekeepers? I would love to have them full time. I don't want to underpay them. And how difficult is to find people for work?

Answer: Almost everyone who moves down to Panama will eventually find themselves in the position of "employer" at one time or another. It's common for people to hire maids and gardeners to help around the house. Many people will also hire additional help when they have a baby, heavily tasked professionals will hire personal assistants and translators, older people will hire drivers or bodyguards, and people with large houses in the country will often hire a man to do general labor around the house. Your question is very common and in reality there are several elements to this issue to address. I'll try to break it down for you.

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What is Needed to Open a Bank Account?

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Q: Does anyony know what paper work is needed to open a bank account in Panama as a foreigner. I would like to open an account and set up an allotment to go there, for my future trips. Also which would you sugest? Any help would be helpful.

A: Panama has to comply with international "know your customer" laws and regulations and banks require all of this documentation to basically cover their backsides. All of this paperwork stays in their files, so if you turn out to be an international drug smuggling money launderer, they can show the feds that they complied with the rules to make sure that you are who you say you are. See below for a list of required documents.
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Happy Thanksgiving from Panama Guide

Why Panama & Frequently Asked Questions Thanksgiving is said to be the only truly American holiday. Since my arrival in Panama more than 18 years ago the Thanksgiving tradition has become more commonly celebrated here. Many Panamanian families now prepare a special meal, and take a special day to thank God for the blessings we've received throughout the year. Personally, I think the Thanksgiving tradition is one of our best exports. In any case, we here at Panama Guide want to say "Thank you" to all of our readers and visitors. So, if you're on your way to mom's house, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, no matter where you are.
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Why Panama? Panama- A Great Place to Live and Visit

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsFrom the "Why Panama" section of our friends at www.panama-real-estate.com, a comprehensive collection of reasons why more and more people are considering Panama as a destination.
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Why Panama? Because Panama City Rocks!

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsOne of the nicest things about living here in Panama is having access to all of the modern amenities available in Panama City. No matter what you're looking for, chances are you can find it here. Panama City's skyline is impressive, and changing almost daily with the addition of new skyscrapers, apartment buildings, office buildings, and towers.
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Why Panama? It's Close to the United States

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsOne of the best "selling points" for Panama is that it's relatively close to the United States. Airline carriers are now offering direct (non-stop) service from eight major cities in the US. Many people choose to live here, and "hop" back to the states every now and then to visit, go shopping, or just to get a dose of home.
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Why Panama? The US Dollar is the local currency

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsHere in Panama the currency is the US dollar. They call it a "Balboa" but in reality it's the same stuff you're spending in Wisconsin. This simple fact makes Panama a very attractive location for investment, retirement, and tourism for lots of good reasons.
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Why Panama? You can see the Panama Canal

Why Panama & Frequently Asked QuestionsThere's a lot to see and do in Panama, and the Panama Canal is easily the most popular tourist attraction in Panama. A great water tollway, often called the "Big Ditch," links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It weaves across a strip of tropical land where the Isthmus of Panama narrows in the shape of a long flattened letter S.
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