Welcome to Panama

So Why Panama?
Panama is such an amazing country and surprises everyone who visits. I joke with our friends that if they are planning on coming to Panama be prepared to be overwhelmed.

So Why Panama? Is there a reason - No, There are several reasons -- the opportunities are plentiful, albeit the prices are going up.

We have really taken to the Caribbean coast as it offers so much nicer water and beaches.

Costa del Este
Panama City, Panama
They Need Your Love
They Need Your Love - animal shelter in Arraijan near Panama City. Hundreds of dogs and cats that have been rescued from a life on the streets, starving, hurt, and unloved.

We have set up a web site to help.

You can Adopt a Pet no matter where you are in the world. For as little as $15 per month you can help make the life so much better for one dog or cat.

Donate Now

The 2012 Spay Panama calendar is now available and it's their best ever! Both Panamanian AND U.S. holidays are labeled. The pictures featured are all of formerly homeless dogs and cats that were neutered and lucky enough to have been adopted. All proceeds go to support the wonderful efforts of Spay Panama to control the overpopulation of unwanted pets. Since its inception in 2002, Spay Panama has sterilized over 24,000 animals! The yearly calendar is their main fundraising tool and they really need your support. Like most other non-profit organizations, Spay Panama has seen a severe drop in donations due to the economy.

So, by purchasing a calendar you get something truly useful and you help out a great cause at the same time! The price is a ridiculously low $7.00 and the calendars can be found at: the U.S. Embassy, Excedra Books, Balboa Dental Clinic, Los Angeles de los Animales (cell 6781-2641) or Mailboxes, ETC in Coronado

Pat Chan


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Since we moved to Panama in 2006 every time we tell one of our friends that we moved to the Republic of Panama, the first question is always "Why Panama". So we decided to build a web site to help them understand how simple the decision to choose Panama really was to us. We have included some links to other sites and to articles we think might help understand Panama. This  is  by no means exhaustive, so be sure to move through the suggested sites and explore the links and resources they suggest to ensure  you get as much information as possible.

News and events


It's summer, Carnival, the dry season, school holidays, and Valentines Day all rolled into one.

Everywhere in the world where they celebrate Carnival the city is transformed and the people go crazy. Think of Rio, Venice and New Orleans. Here in Panama City it is almost a ghost town - everyone seems to take off Friday at noon and head to the interior of Panama - Las Tables, Las Santos, Penonomé, and even Pedasi, The restaurants in our area, Costa del Este are all closed. Lots of shops closed until Wednesday. Government and the banks closed until Wednesday. Last year the government tried to make the city a "happening place". They spent a reported 3 million to throw Carnival in the city on the Cinta Costera. We went to see the action and there were lots of people but it was not packed. This year I understand they've scaled the budget back to under 500k.

The dry season always meant lots of fires. People wanting to burn the dry weeds instead of chopping them down. The worst part was it was always very windy in the dry season which meant the fire department was constantly running to put out fires before they caused serious damage. We have pictures of one of those fires just across the freeway from us burning a freeway advertising sign 30 feet in the air. This year it seems a lot more civilized. Still lots of wind and still very dry, but no fires so far.

Donna & I just returned from a short cruise out of Tampa and while in Tampa we did some shopping at the outlet malls. We rented a car to get around for the 2 days. Unbeknownst to me, my Panama drivers license expired January 31st, 2015. Donna caught it not the rental car company. I was worried but there was nothing we could do as she doesn't have a license in Panama.

Upon our return to Panama my first trip (by cab) was to the place that renews licenses. Very simple I was told. I get to the building to find what seems like all of Panama waiting outside in a line. I went up to teh security guard to make sure this was the correct line. He confirmed it was and asked me if I was "jubilado"  (old person) - I said yes, and he promptly opened the door and told me to go in and go to the jubilado line. No waiting. That part was nice. But the simple .. well not quite so simple. You see we have two vehicles. The first one we purchased in 2007. When you register a vehicle in Panama they link your cedula or passport to the vehicle. As the numbers on a normal cedula do not change there is no problem. But passport numbers do change when they are renewed. When we purchased the second vehicle it was in 2013. My passport number in 2007 was not the same as in 2013 nor today - 3 different numbers. Turns out when I went to renew my license they check on vehicles and sure enough it showed two with different passport numbers and I now have a cedula. So they could not renew my license until I went to the municipal office to "fix" the vehicles registrations first.

The next day by cab again, I headed downtown, this time with a lawyer to help navigate what I was sure was going to be tricky waters. Turns out I was right. As soon as we got to the counter to make the simple change they discover another problem. There are two Thomas Dawson's in the system with two different numbers.

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This apparently is a huge "no no". The reason was the two vehicle registrations with the two different passports  - they never asked or linked the first one when the second was registered. It took almost everyone in the office and almost 3 hours to get the change done. The other hilarious item was my name - they kept wanting to call me Mr Sterling - you see everything shows up as Thomas Sterling Dawson and it is almost the norm here in Panama to list your name, your family name and your mothers (or fathers name) so they assumed Sterling was the family name. It took my lawyer almost 10 minutes to convince the girl it should be Dawson.

The next day by cab again, back to the first office to get my licensed renewed. After waiting to get to the first counter, it turned out I had four more counters to go through. Details and picture. Visual test. Audio test and finally cashier to pay before I finally got my new license.

Check out the monthly photos of the changes around our area Costa del Este. For almost 9 years, Donna has been taking the same 3 pictures from our balcony. It will give you some sense of how much has changed. The same crazy growth can be seen all over Panama City. We had a new valuation done on our condo and it confirmed the prices continue to rise which is both a good and bad thing. I went to the super market today and was reminded that this same "rise" includes things like food. I have no real comparison to our old home in Canada to know if they are feeling the same thing, I suspect they are but to use Panama is not the cheap little country it was 9 years ago.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. I want them to have seen the beaches, the two oceans, mountains and the city.

Before you chose any new home make sure you've visited, spent time and tried to get a feel for what the area is really like. To often people visit on a vacation, fall in love with an area and then decide to move. Visiting and living are two very different things in any country. We vacationed in Mexico for over 20 years and we loved it. We enjoyed the food, the people, the weather but when it came time to make a final decision on a move we did not choose Mexico we chose Panama. Why - well it turned out several things. First at our core we are city people and Mexico has few real cities. Second, we wanted some place where the weather was predictable and Mexico has too many hurricanes and bad weather - Panama might be hot and humid but very predictable. Third, it turns out for Canadians, the tax laws are so much better. Finally when we looked closely at the retirement visa options we found that Panama had the best options available and they have even improved with the friendly nation visa.

Still the advice is the same - do your homework or ask more questions.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

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Donna started iCanGarden.com and now almost 18 years later it has become Canada's largest Internet gardening resource site. Several thousand people visit her site every day. Spend some time looking over the thousands of pictures of gardens from all over the world.

We are so proud of the TV special just aired by Recreating Eden - entitled "the Gardening Tourist".

Donna recently changed the look of the site - - if you enjoy it - let her know - I am really proud of her.


In 2006 Donna started a site dedicated exclusively to her garden tours.

For more than 8 years she has been hosting groups of gardeners to gardens all over the world.

Donna has some incredible garden tours lined up for 2013 and 2014 - her 2012 tours were all either fully booked or over booked. China 2013 is already closed as it is full. 


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