What I have learned so far living in Panama (Panama City)
Hello there, I just moved to Panama from the US after service in the military, My wife is Panamanian but had not lived here since Protected content . I was doing all the research of places to move to with thing like, lower cost of living, affordable medical, schools (since we have three small kids) a slower pace of life and nature..LOTS of nature Panama was it. I work outside of Panama so my wife and kids enjoy it more. I'll begin with saying that, International Living is misleading, yes they have lots of good and "truthful" info but they leave A LOT out. The big one is that Panama has become quite expensive from Panama of old and they seem to cater to the wealthy.
I first moved to the city and rented an older apartment because it was very big.240 sq mts. for Protected content month in Bella vista El Carmen. All the amenities were there, Pool, indoor parking, concierge etc. If you get any of the new places..they are TINY. 56 to Protected content for modern apartment. Then there is the traffic. OMG what a mess. Lots of construction cause of the rail system and countless towers being erected that seem to be 90% empty(money laundering) It takes me 15 minutes to drive Protected content from my apartment to Pricemart. Real estate prices are controlled by Unscrupulous Agencies...ALL OF THEM...We will find a home on Encuentra24.com and it is being shown by Protected content and the asking price will vary from 3k- to as much as 25k for the same property. So do your homework, best to talk to owners direct. Colombians and Venezuelans have moved to the county and have raised the price of everything dramatically and if your from a nation above Mexico or east of Greenwich on the Atlantic, BEWARE the price just doubled. If you live where I live in Coronado, your paying for it. So is the price of exclusivity. Problem is, its still growing and lacking many things. I love to dance with my wife and we did that quite often in the city but here, well..I'm still driving to the city. If all you want is upscale country living, then Coronado is for you. If you Love country living in general, well you can do that for cheaper 15 minutes in either direction on the InterAmerican Highway.
If your going to buy a car, well buy something new and Asian, I'm a European car guy and I do my own work ,I'm certified on 6 major European brands , if that wasn't the case, well your in for a shock. To many cars and not enough skilled or trained Mechanics. If you buy second hand, that is a lose lose game, with you doing all the losing. Your talking about the majority of a society that earns on average Protected content month in salary, so taking care of a car is on the cheap, even for those that broke away from this and CAN afford better up keep but rather do it on the cheap. So this "cheap" gets passed on to you. You will spend your time at the Dealership spending a higher premium or getting ripped off by a local "mechanic". I guess both are the same right?
Schools..In our case we came down with our 3 youngest of 7 kids, so we couldn't just live anywhere unless I was going to rely on the public school system, we weren't, so private Bilingual schools for us. Our kids spoke English, but understood Spanish.
In the city their are plenty of options, from fair priced to Harvard University price tags. Don't get me wrong, even the upper class schools run about average to a private school in the States. You have to understand the school calendar and open registration time tables, if not then you will be left where we were when we first got there, NO SPACE, so we ended up going with a school that told us they were bilingual, but in fact were not. Only one English language class a week. Our school age daughter suffered until we scrambled to move her to the right school.
When we moved to Coronado we found a great school. Coronado international school. They follow the same curriculum of the more costly(I guess prestigious) Metropolitan School in Panama city. They have and excellent PE program that includes, sports, swimming, equestrian, and even surfing. And they have a huge respect for the environment that the pass on to the kids.
We are renting in Coronado as well, until our house is constructed. As I figured out, your going to leave where ever home is to find an awesome life somewhere else, DREAM LIFE right? why would you buy someone elses dream. You buy a home in Panama, if its new most likely its on a tiny plot of land, if its old then your paying for the land cause the house isn't worth it. If you DO buy a home, it has to be at least 80% of what you wanted in the first place, you can add the other 20% later to make it your very own. We were lucky when we bought our land, I say lucky cause we had NO idea how much land was going to go up in Panama. Heck we bought it with the idea of maybe moving here much later in life. We purchased our Land 4 years ago. Its 1.5 acres cause I'm a car guy and my only requirement was I had to have space for a separate garage(man cave) and of course room for our kids and dogs to roam and the wife to plant her flowers and fruit trees. We bought this land for 22k and now this size land isn't even hardly available in the Coronado area for leas than a small fortune. From San Carlos to Capira, close enough to the highway you will expect to pay 65k to an astronomical 450k. Even inside the Coronado gated community that comes with unpaved roads and streets. So buy some land and build your own dream.
This is a bit of what I have learned since here, if you have any questions that I might have the real answer to let me know how I can help. If I have offended anyone, NOT my intent. If you have a trust fund or are wealthy then ignore all this. But just so you know I bring home over 150k before my pension is added. I do love everything else and so does my family