“Panama’s major draw is its Pensionado (pensioner) visa, where qualified retirees achieve residence status fairly quickly. The program entitles visa holders to discounts on medical treatment, dining, movies, and more.
Most expats in Panama regret they didn’t come sooner, as many say they chose Panama for the friendly people, its rainforest, its plentiful beaches, and the choice of secluded or city living lifestyles.
Panama is definitely the hidden gem of Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean and is one of the most attractive emerging tourism destinations in the world. It is 30% cheaper to spend a vacation in Panama than in Costa Rica.
English is a second language-most Panamanians speak some English and many speak it fluently, especially those that cater to tourists. Panama is an international business crossroads where English is a necessity.
RULES OF THUMB:
When you arrive in a strange country it is helpful to have some ‘rules of thumb‘ to ensure that you don’t get over-charged.
Transport costs should be as follows:
Town Bus (around town): US$0.50c / trip (up to 2-3kms).
Chicken Bus (between towns): US$3 / 100kms.
Luxury Bus / Shuttle Bus: US$6 / 100kms.
Taxi (urban): US$0.35c / km.
Taxi (rural): US$0.50c / km.
Taxi (tourist area): US$0.75c / km.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO PAY:
Expect to pay US$30-35 / night for a GRANDPAcking Double with fan and cold water ensuite. Breakfast is usually NOT included.
HOW TO GET A BETTER PRICE:
If you get on the internet and search hard across multiple hotel search sites you should be able to find a deal that discounts these rates down to US$25-30 / night respectively. In Panama, I recommend that (for short term Hostels & Hotels) you try BOOKING.COM.
CABLE TV or GOOD WIFI:
Many hotels offer Cable TV with 50 Channels or more. Unlike in other Central American countries, you get several English Speaking channels. This makes getting an hotel room with cable TV worthwhile (if there is no cost difference)
In Panama, you should also be able to get an hotel room with good wifi. Which means that you can also stream programs and movies off the internet.
FOOD & DRINK:
Prices are on the high-side for GRANDPAckers.
LOCAL CAFES / COMEDOR ECONOMICAS:
Breakfast: A Desayuno Tipico / Traditionale on the street or in a Comedor Economica should cost US$3.50 including a coffee. An extra black coffee should cost US$0.50c.
Lunch: A simple lunch on the street or in a Comedor Economica should cost US$4.00 including a Fruit Drink.
Dinner: A 2 piece Fried Chicken meal on the street or in a Comedor Economica should cost US$3.50. A Fruit Juice / small beer US$1.
A 350ml local beer should cost US$0.75-1.00 in a local bar.
- A typical meal from the ‘lower quartile’ of the menu: US$7.50
- An ‘average’ meal US$10.
TIPS, TRICKS, AND TRAPS:
Here are a few useful titbits …
Forget them. The only TTs that the banks will exchange are American Express … and, even then, you will have to go to quite a few banks before you find one that takes TTs.
If you have any other sort of TT on you … they are just dead luggage.
Never accept transport from touts inside an Airline or Ferry Terminal.
Always walk out of the Terminal to get better prices.
Often, you will find a Bus Terminal or Minivan Terminal within walking distance of an Airport / Ferry Terminal.
Always negotiate and agree a price BEFORE getting into the Taxi.
+Movil, Movistar and Claro are the main service providers.
A SIMcard should cost you US$3.55 (sometimes free in the service provider’s actual store). A 2GB 1-Month Data Plan will cost you US$15.