Liz Larroquette
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If I Just Have One Week…?

Calendar on beach

Often times I get calls from individuals interested in buying property in Panama and they tell me they have only one week to visit the country, see if they like it enough to invest and then view all the options available for purchase. As much as I like to sell property, I have to tell them immediately it’s not enough time. Some will argue they have done all kinds of research on the internet and Panama has checked most of their boxes. While I feel sure that may be true, I simply repeat, “a week is not enough time. You must feel Panama. You need to see if it fits you individually!”

Which Big Body Of Water Suits You?

People are generally surprised when they see the number of modern high-rise buildings in Panama City.

Panama is a blessed strip of land that can give residents and visitors almost any kind of geography. Do you prefer the Caribbean Sea over the Pacific Ocean? We have both! There is a rainforest minutes from Panama City and the only one in the world which is right next door to a metropolitan center.

Are you looking for a large city? Panama City alone provides a number of living situations from the vibrant historical sector, Casco Viejo, to a new, planned community with all the first-world amenities in Costa del Este. There is a beach community just over the Bridge of the Americas as well as other beach communities along the PanAmerican highway in Nueva Gorgona and I encourage people to continue doing internet research, but I also tell them they must come to Panama. See what it is like flying into Tocumen International Airport. Many people tell me they were surprised to feel the heat and humidity upon walking out of the airport, even late at night. It’s hard to research a feeling over the internet and the heat in Panama is real.

Imagine Welcoming Family To Panama

Tocumen airport under construction

The new Tocumen Airport is scheduled to start operating by October 2018, with 75% of construction complete.

I tell people as they walk out of the airport they should try to imagine how they might feel welcoming family and friends to Panama. When they arrive will they be impressed, scared for your safety, happy you are safe? How long did it take to get to Panama? Will it be too much after the newness has worn off? Is it too expensive to go back for important events and visits?  Think weddings and other life milestone family occasions! Unless you don’t want to socialize and then it doesn’t matter. The fact Panama is easy to get to and from the United States and Canada has always been a real plus in my mind.

I tell people considering Panama as a new destination that I think they will be surprised once they have arrived, even after all the research. Tocumen International Airport is currently under construction and the expansion is just one of the many well-funded municipal projects underway in Panama. When the new terminal is completed, it will reflect the Panamanian landscape with a welcoming open garden, planted with the trees and flora of Panama’s tropical forests. They say it will evoke a unique sense of welcome, removing the anonymity of an international hub experience often felt at other airports. It’s beyond just first-world, it will raise the bar for international airports globally.

Financing From The Canal

The Amador Causeway is a narrow land-bridge, built with rocks excavated during the construction of the Panama Canal, that offers restaurants, bike paths and outdoor activities.

The revenue received from the Panama Canal (even more now that it has doubled in size) finances other projects such as the new subway system, a comprehensive water treatment facility and the development of the recreational area, the Amador Causeway.

There are social programs in place to enhance the lives of Panamanians and an ambitious program to provide English skills for all students throughout the country. These initiatives benefit the citizens as well as those interested in making Panama home.

After arriving at the airport, wave down a driver and relax as you are transported into the city. See how you feel when you look at the impressive sprawl that is Panama City. Look at the water on either side of the highway as you glide along the well maintained roads. Notice the ease in getting through the toll booths with everything automated. Notice the new cars and the people driving them. Imagine your self in one of those cars. I encourage people to ask themselves if they would be comfortable.

Imagine Being A Resident

I tell people to try to imagine being a resident. In your mind’s eye envision living on one of the floors of a modern high rise, walking to a restaurant or shopping in one of the many malls or American-type grocery stores. Will you have friends over for drinks before walking to a nearby restaurant? Will you seek out the jazz clubs or would you be more comfortable sitting on your balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Where in Panama might you feel comfortable? Imagine your life here! Not on vacation, but everyday!

Picturing Day-To-Day Living!

Would a local restaurant not suit you or would you find it welcoming? We have all types in Panama, but it is important before you move to know your comfort level. 

Since Panama City is ranked as one of the top ten Latin American cities for dining, I tell people to think about eating day-to-day. When visiting, don’t think of it as a vacation, but rather a reconnaissance mission. Did you find enough variety in both price and diversity? Would you be eating out a lot, or did you visit the many groceries and compare cost and selection? There is every possible type of restaurant from Italian, Mexican, American to Indian and Middle Eastern, but that is not day-to-day living. I love the Brazilian steak focused restaurants and the wonderful Asian offerings, but I mostly eat food in my home. Imagine that when you are doing your research.

You Shouldn’t Live With Low-Level Anxiety

The Do-It-Center stores in Panama have a wide variety of items, but probably not as many as one might find in the United States.

After spending the night were there enough English speakers to make you feel comfortable? Were there too many things which confused you causing low-level anxiety? Could you imagine yourself walking along the La Cinta Costera in the mornings or jogging as the evening sun goes down? Are you comfortable with the people? They probably look different from you.

Rent a car and start driving. See how you like the traffic. Look at the stores and know if you are going to feel secure leaving your favorites such as Home Depot. Imagine walking into a DoIt Center with a real list. Will that be enough or will you feel the selection is not adequate? Look at the prices and the quality of the offerings. If you move to Panama, you will need to go to a hardware store eventually. I tell people often to remind themselves this is not a vacation. It’s important research. It’s your research.

Non-refrigerated Eggs And Limited Recycling

eggs broken in nest

Eggs as a dealbreaker? That was one I hadn't heard before, but it goes to show why you can't do all your research on the internet!

One time, I had a woman who was so sure she wanted to move to Panama that she bought a condominium sight unseen. I encouraged her to visit first, but she was sure. After nine months she called and wanted to “return” the condo. “You can’t just return it,” was my reply and she quickly gave me a list of things that made her feel “uncomfortable” including the fact eggs aren’t refrigerated in Panama. Without going into the reasons eggs are perfectly fine in Panama, I began to guide her on what she’d need to do to put her real estate on the market. Another individual from Germany was reasonably horrified there wasn’t a more robust recycling effort in Panama. “We recycle everything,” she said with just a tone of superiority, “it’s really hard to get to used to the fact not everyone even recycles glass bottles. It’s actually horrifying,” she told me. I felt as though I had let her down, but lack of refrigerated eggs or recycling glass bottles is not something I would immediately think to tell someone.

Making The Judgement Call Yourself

What I know, after years of helping people find their next home, is that I cannot know what is right for them individually. They have to make that judgement call. They have to come to Panama and visit and put Panama on like a piece of clothing. Is it too scratchy? Can they move in it comfortably? Does it make them feel good? Does it fit? Come on down for a little research and see if Panama fits!

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About the Author Liz Larroquette

Whether you are looking to retire in Panama, relocate your family, or buy property as an investment Liz is a wealth of knowledge you can and should tap into.

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