Panama City, Panama Report of what it's like to live there - 09/07/14
Personal Experiences from Panama City, Panama
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Have lived all over the world.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
I think it's about 3 hours from Miami and also 3 hours from Houston.
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Government work.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
My house is nice but it has absolutely no privacy. The Embassy does not provide privacy curtains so everyone can see into all windows in the house
(yes, also the bathroom!). I ended up buying tools and installed my own black-out curtains at an inversion of about US$700 for a house in which I will live only 2 years.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
I found it expensive, hence the COLA, which never adequately compnesates.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All the usual and some really good sushi and Lebanese.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
In my house none at all.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Too complicated to hire a maid.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Be careful. Best to use the one in the Mission.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Negotiate with the taxis or they will overcharge.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Installation customer service is horrible. I think I paid too much: US$100 for 9mb plus cable TV with all HBO channels.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
C & W.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes, unless you are a diplomat. Good care.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The usual and men can wear shorts here - thankfully.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Occasional break ins.
2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
HOT AND HUMID!!!!!!
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I hear the schools are great!
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge. Morale seems ok to good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Meet for supper, BBQs, movies.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes yes yes.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Canal and beach overnights.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Air hub so lots of flight options.
9. Can you save money?
I would have to say no.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. But don't forget your:
Pre-planning: There is little welcome material to help you plan your arrival at post (except a sponsor assignment). I didn't hear from anyone until two weeks before my arrival and I usually hear two MONTHS before at other posts Ask one of your sponsors to provide a Mission phone list, map, taxi numbers, food delivery numbers, etc. ahead of time.