Update From Panama July 28 (revised from July 1)

Goodbye Panama! Thank you!

Buenos dias from Panama!

It’s a fitting time to celebrate with our friends at Amigos Restaurant here in Boquete! Thank you to Mark and Jen and their staff for the many fun times at their restaurant over the past four months.

We have decided to go back to Canada as of August 1st. We’ll visit Edmonton for a short time to catch up with family and friends then head off to live in Vancouver for a few months or maybe eight, then we’d like to rent a condo in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in the province of British Columbia, possibly Vernon or Osoyoos.

These locations are quite different from each other. Most of the people we’ve bumped into have heard of Vancouver. It’s a great city full of opportunities, a plethora of tasteful restaurants to dine in and of course, an endless supply of festivals, celebrations, and activities that living next to an ocean can provide.

Departing from Vancouver and driving east into the southern interior of British Columbia, we would arrive at our destination of Vernon, a city with a population estimate of 45000. It’s located in what is known as the Okanagan Valley and is the largest city in the northern part of this region.

For us, it offers a varied climate, which is important since we’re “four season people” at heart. The average high temperature is 26 degrees Celsius in July and drops down to an average low in January of minus 7 degrees Celsius. These temperatures suit us just fine as we happen to be acclimatized to the colder temperatures after living in Edmonton for most of our lives.

Another perk in our favor is an international airport can be found at Kelowna, BC which is only about 40 km away from Vernon. And there are many lakes in this area to fish, swim, suntan or whatever to your heart’s content.

Osoyoos, on the other hand, is in an arid region, close to the border of Washington State. It’s located on Lake Osoyoos, in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley, so we’re near water again and would enjoy all that this affords.

Quite often, Osoyoos is also the hottest spot in Canada. The average range in temperatures  is from 29 degrees Celsius in July to -5 degrees Celsius in January. It’s becoming a popular place for retirees to settle in and the Kelowna International Airport is about 1.5 hours away, a reasonable driving distance of about 100 km.

Even though it would appear that we were on an extended vacation in Panama, my wife has had a rough time living here in Boquete or anywhere in Panama for that matter. She has been homesick to the point of physical nauseousness and struggled with her anxiety to the point of having panic attacks.

We’ve decided it’s time to go. Thank you to those of you who followed my blog. Your support was enthusiastically appreciated! And best of luck to all of my fellow bloggers and may their writings be inspirational and entertaining for many years to come!

And a special thank you goes out to all of our expat friends that we’ve met in our travels throughout Panama. You were and are so very kind and we’re glad we exchanged personal information with you so we can keep in touch.

Another special thank you to all of the very nice Panamanians who helped us along the way especially Ken, Angela, Eduardo, Carmen and Fernando. And the many taxi drivers we met who drove us around at all hours of the day and night. You serve your towns and cities well! And thank you Panama for your hospitality!

Until next time…if there is a next time, buenos dias from Panama, Don

Update From Panama July 1

Happy Canada Day! Goodbye Panama! Thank you!

Buenos dias from Panama!

It’s a fitting time to celebrate with our friends at Amigos Restaurant here in Boquete! It’s a Canada Day celebration and BBQ time! Thank you to Mark and Jen and their staff for the many fun times at their restaurant over the past three months.

We have decided to go back to Canada as of August 1st. We’ll visit Edmonton for a short time to catch up with family and friends then head off to live in Vancouver for a few months or maybe eight, then we’d like to rent a condo in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in the province of British Columbia, possibly Vernon or Osoyoos.

Even though it would appear that we were on an extended vacation in Panama, my wife has had a rough time living here in Boquete or anywhere in Panama for that matter. She has been homesick to the point of physical nauseousness and struggled with her anxiety to the point of having panic attacks.

We’ve decided it’s time to go. Thank you to those of you who followed my blog. Your support was enthusiastically appreciated! And best of luck to all of my fellow bloggers and may their writings be inspirational and entertaining for many years to come!

And a special thank you goes out to all of our expat friends that we’ve met in our travels throughout Panama. You were and are so very kind and we’re glad we exchanged personal information with you so we can keep in touch.

Another special thank you to all of the very nice Panamanians who helped us along the way especially Ken, Angela, Eduardo, Carmen and Fernando. And the many taxi drivers we met who drove us around at all hours of the day and night. You serve your towns and cities well! And thank you Panama for your hospitality!

Until next time…if there is a next time, buenos dias from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 29

Grocery Shopping In Panama

Buenos dias from Panama!

Overall, food costs in Panama are less expensive than in Canada, especially if you’re wise in your food choices. We have reduced our monthly budget by about $300 for groceries just by moving here. Imported food brands are much more expensive than local items but nothing can replace that sense of comfort you get thinking about home while eating your well-known brand of cereal.

I found that prices on healthier foods here are very reasonable compared to what we pay for the same foods in Canada. Fresh fruits and vegetables are incredibly cheap. We purchased four bananas, two large tomatoes, two zucchinis and an onion for $1.96 at the corner vegetable market. Some Panamanians grow fresh garden vegetables in their backyards and sell them by setting up stands in the front of their homes.

Mangoes, pineapples, oranges and bananas are bursting  with flavor, much tastier than what I remember in Northern Canada. It seemed we were always waiting for certain fruits that were in season and then we would be disappointed in their bland taste or poor quality. Shipping these products appeared to take its toll most likely because of items being transported in a frozen state in order to make the long trip north or the unending inclement weather damaging the crops and decreasing yields. Transporting products from Florida and the sunshine states was driving prices up and food quality down.

Since we’ve been here, our meals have consisted of chicken, pork or shrimp, potatoes or rice and a vegetable. A typical Panamanian meal would be chicken, rice and beans. You can purchase this combination at a very low cost, sometimes as low as $2.50, in any local restaurant. This not only satiates your tummy but is very nice with respect to budgeting your meal costs.

Foods that are unhealthy such as certain cereals, potato chips, pop, candies, etc. are more expensive which makes more sense and is probably a good thing. This helps us buy less junk food. However Coke here, for example, is made with sugar cane instead of fructose which has caused me to have more reason to ignore the high cost. Twelve cans of Coke here typically cost $8.99 or $9.99. But coke goes so well with the smooth Panamanian rums which you can purchase for next to nothing. Can you imagine paying just $10 for a 1.75 litre bottle of rum?

Meats tend to be of lesser quality here than in Canada. Sorry, but in my opinion, you can’t beat AAA Alberta beef! I miss grilling a superb cut of rib-eye steak on the BBQ and can still taste that melt-in-your-mouth flavor. Each beef dish I’ve had in Panama at a local restaurant has been bland-tasting and very tough to cut and chew. I’ve been told the reason for this is not aging the beef long enough.

The chicken here is quite good although you can tell the quality of meat is lacking when you try chicken soups or stews. Pork costs are decent here and as far as I’m concerned pork is my meat of choice here in Panama. Loins and chops have been delectable indeed!

As you probably guessed, there are many varieties of fish and seafood to try in Panama. Fish is reasonably priced depending on what you purchase. Salmon, corvina (resembles whitefish), snapper, bass, tuna and mackerel are popular choices at local restaurants and resemble what we have available in Canada. Prices in grocery stores are okay although we’ve noticed that salmon here is just as expensive as in Canada.

With Panama having access to the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, many other types of fish are available to eat such as marlin, grouper, wahoo, pompano, taipon and rockfish. Seafood such as crab, lobster, shrimp, prawns and octopus are more dearly priced in restaurants and are at the high end of the menu but can be purchased at a decent cost in local supermarkets.

Places to buy groceries in Panama are plentiful and depending on where you shop are for the most part kept clean. Mainstream food stores which can be accessed mostly in bigger cities or towns in Panama include Romero’s, Super 99, El Rey’s (like Superstore in Canada), Price Smart (like Costco in Canada) and Super Baru. Some of these stores can be found in smaller towns however the food selection is diminished.

Alcohol is sold in grocery stores here which is a nice convenience, though there are separate liquor store establishments which sell a much larger variety of wines, beers and hard liquors. Prices are lower than in Canada but vary depending on where you shop and popular alcoholic items are much more expensive in gas stations and convenience stores like the ones we have in Canada. We noticed in a Penonome gas station that the popular Panamanian rum called Abuelo that I spoke about previously was priced at $19, almost double the cost of the same item in a grocery store.

Hope this helps, until next time…hasta la proxima from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 23

High Up In The Mountains of Panama

Buenas noches from Panama!

We traveled to the town of Volcan on the weekend, with our friends James and Diane from Alabama, up into the Central mountains of Panama. It took about one-and-a-half hours to get there but it was a long and winding road that seemed to take days to get there. The town is situated in the Chiriqui province on the opposite side of the mountains of Boquete.

It sits on an old lava flow from the mountain known as Volcan Baru, the highest point in Panama at 3475 metres or 11460 feet. This volcano is dormant, but potentially active, with its last major eruption about 500 A.D.

In 2006, an earthquake swarm, where there are sequences of many earthquakes striking in a short period of time, occurred underneath the mountain, raising fears that it could erupt with explosive force sometime in the future.

An interesting feature of the area is that it’s possible to see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea from Volcan Baru’s peak on a clear day. Most of the time though, the mountain is shrouded in clouds which was the case at the time we arrived. As the day wore on, the clouds shifted a little so the mountain could be seen enough to take a picture.

One of the reasons we drove into the area was to check the place out but we also went there to visit an acupuncturist. Our friends recommended this doctor and I’m glad they did! Another big hug and thank you goes out to Diane and James.

I’ve been spending too much time in front of the computer lately and my neck has been giving me grief. At a cost of $30 and a few needles later, I was feeling much better. We’ll head back there again on Saturday for another treatment.

Until next time…buenos dias from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 20

Cargo-ed Canines

Buenos dias from Panama!

The plan seemed simple enough. Go to Panama City’s Tocumen Airport and pick up our two dogs.

The preparation of documents, shots and health certificates to get them on their flights started months before their departure. Each dog needed a health checkup and up-to-date shots through our veterinarian within ten days of their departure. These health certificates had to be authenticated by the provincial health department during an appointment which was booked on the day following their vet checkup. The process went smoothly and the airlines provided the rest of the documents and stickers that needed to be attached to their kennels on the day of their flights.

Pet flights were available from our location in Canada through United Airlines and Air Transat and each airline had different requirements. We checked out both of these options thoroughly. United Airlines was about half the cost of Air Transat since Air Transat was a direct charter flight from Edmonton to Panama City. United Airlines would take two days flight time after an overnight stay in Houston, Texas.

Depending on the kennel size, flight prices increased based on their volume. So you could send both dogs in one larger kennel but it would cost more because of the larger volume of the kennel. We were quoted $1700 using one kennel. We practiced with one kennel but our two small dogs didn’t like the tight sleeping quarters witnessed by a three a.m. awakening and the dogs growling loudly at each other. One had a throat-hold on the other, which was behavior we hadn’t seen before.

Needless to say, we decided to use two kennels instead of one resulting in a cost of approximately $800 for their United Airlines flights and $1500 for their Air Transat flight. We contacted the Southgate Flight Center to book their flights with United Airlines, received the documents via email, checked them over and noticed that the agent had booked them to fly on different days. This wouldn’t work and a return phone call to the flight center agent confirmed this. He would have to re-book the flights.

During his call-back, unfortunately, he discovered that since their United Airlines aircrafts were too small (?), there was only room for one dog per flight thus the reason for him booking two different flight departures. So back to the drawing board, we had no choice but to fly with Air Transat.

With respect to our flights, we had already scheduled ourselves to fly into Panama City for a conference at the beginning of our relocation. We discovered that very few hotels in Panama allow pets so they had to fly on their own on the only Air Transat flight available, one week later.

Our dear friends, Nick and Dayna, accepted our request to drop the dogs off at the airport at 5 a.m. on the day of their flight, after keeping them at their place for a full week. It’s nice to have friends you can really rely on. A big hug and thank you to both of you!

We arrived at the Tocumen Airport, unsure of where to pick up our dogs. We stood for quite awhile at the doors where all passengers arrived, both two-and-four-legged, and then decided to go looking for an Air Transat wicket or agent to help us. Neither was anywhere in sight.

After we walked up and down the airport several times on both floors, we stopped and asked an agent from a different airline who directed us to Air Transat’s tiny office in the bowels of the airport. We wandered through narrow corridors and finally found a small office door on the second floor.

We were then told by the agents in this office that they do not deal with pets here and weren’t even sure our dogs had arrived on their recent flight. A build-up of panic ensued. One kind agent took the time to walk with us and showed us where to pick them up. We continued to wait…

Frustrated by this time, my wife took out her cell phone and typed the English words that conveyed our problem into her translator app. She then passed the phone to one of the Spanish-speaking security officers sitting at the passenger’s gate. Immediately they found our documents and called out to an Air Transat agent who just happened to be walking by.

This friendly agent dropped what he was doing and escorted us back to the second floor where we were only allowed one pass to get through the security gate. We went back to the lower floor and he kindly offered to go with me through the gate, where we heard our dogs barking and whining incessantly in their kennels. Were they ever glad to see me!

This agent translated all-needed discussions with airport security and stayed with me for about an hour in order to get our dogs released. Another big hug and thank you! I paid the necessary fees, which amounted to about $300, and this agent even helped me carry the kennels through the passenger’s gate where my wife was waiting. We unlocked the kennels and gave each of our dogs a drink and a great big welcome hug!

I guess the moral of this story is no matter how many obstacles a person has to overcome, with determination and some kind assistance, things will turn out for the best as it did for us that day at the Tocumen International Airport.

Until next time…que tengas buen dia from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 18

Chitre, Las Tablas or Pedasi?

Buenas noches from Panama!

Living in the mountains of Panama has been pleasant. Nice cool breezes and a lot of the time, sunny days and blue skies abound. However, that innate feeling of being in or near water is drawing us back to the ocean!

So we recently took a four-day trip to the city of Chitre, located in the Herrera province, and the towns of Las Tablas and Pedasi, located in the province of Los Santos, along the Pacific coast about a two-to-four hour drive west of Panama City.

After turning off of the Pan-American highway at a small town called Divisa, and driving for about one hour, we encountered the city of Chitre. This metropolis has a population of approximately 102,000 people and many amenities and conveniences similar to Panama City. Visiting this area mainly for proximity to the ocean and beaches, also being able to get a reliable internet hard-wire connection was of paramount importance to us.

We found out that Chitre is one of Panama’s highest developed cities, and one of the most industrialized, providing the country of Panama and the continent of Central America with clothing, fuels and meats. It is located on the Azuero Peninsula and is one of the fastest growing areas in Panama. The city has a multi-floored mall, a large regional bus terminal and its small airport offers flights to Panama City.

The Chitreans are friendly and cheerful and the city very peaceful and secure. The carnival celebrations in the city are well-known world wide. And guess what? Chitre is equipped with high speed internet using hard-wire connections making their signal very reliable. Yes!

As we drove down the highway, the next town we came across was Las Tablas. It is the capital of the Panamanian province of Los Santos and is located on the Azuero Peninsula, a short distance inland from the Gulf of Panama. Like Chitre, Las Tablas is known for a lively annual Carnival, in which the city chooses a carnival queen representing each of two different areas of the city.

The celebrations begin in decorated plazas with colorful parade floats while music and fireworks fill the air. Friendly competition in the form of contests and games stoke the festivities while people visit from all over the world and join in the celebrations.

Unfortunately for us, the town of Las Tablas is supplied with high speed internet accessible by using a WiFi stick, which tends to make the signal unreliable. Darn!

As we continued our travels, next on our list was a stop at Pedasí, a town situated on the south-eastern tip of the Azuero Peninsula in the province of Los Santos on Panama’s Pacific coast.

With a population of 2000 people, Pedasí is a quaint fishing village consisting of two banks, a public health clinic, a library, and a few small shops and restaurants. It’s also known for its lively annual carnivals and many sports-related activities associated with a beach town such as fishing, diving, surfing and swimming.

One drawback was that we couldn’t find any other beaches in the area except for one that was publicly accessible. Two other beaches we found in the Pedasi area were private and accessible only by homeowners situated within two major gated communities.

And as expected , the town of Pedasi is equipped with telephone and high-speed Internet service which is provided through a WiFi stick making it somewhat unreliable. Darn again!

We realized that Chitre was our choice for living close to the beach. So we checked out rentals in this city and found nothing listed. Unfortunately, our beach move will have to wait for sometime in the future.

Until next time…buenas noches from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 17

Our Latest Trip To Panama City

Buenos dias from Panama!

We traveled east to Panama City this past week to pick up our temporary visa residency cards. As usual, traffic and construction held us prisoners for awhile. But we managed to weave our way adeptly through traffic to our hotel and subsequently to our lawyer’s office.

As we were driving through the underground parking of the Multi-Plaza Mall to avoid driving a long distance out of our way due to construction, we came to an intersection which was directly across from our attorney’s office building. It was apparent that the traffic light facing us had been removed. Traffic lights for the other 3 directions were fine, intact and working. I wasn’t sure when I could go, waited patiently for awhile and then decided to take a chance and venture into the intersection. It didn’t take long for someone to honk their disapproval. Under stress, I slide my vehicle into the building’s front access going the wrong way! Oops!

Once in our attorney’s office, I told this story to the receptionist and she mentioned another client had been pulled over promptly by a police officer when encountering the same invisible light. After trying to explain to the officer that there was no light at this intersection, as he was writing up the ticket, he replied, “There used to be a light there and it was red.” The officer then passed the ticket to her and drove away.

Speaking of stories, we hear we will receive our permanent visa cards within 4-6 months. We know of expat friends who were originally told 4-6 months and have been waiting seven months and counting. Hmm, is a small wrinkle appearing in the complexion of paradise?

Unless we apply for a multiple-entry permit, we cannot leave the country at all, even to cross the border into Costa Rica, until our permanent residency has been approved. The fine is $2000 each for leaving the country. The cost of the multiple-entry permits is an additional $300 over and above the $3000 fee for the two pensionado visa applications. Now I’m told that Panama has the easiest and most inexpensive residency program in the world so these costs aren’t too bad. Maybe just a slight blemish here.

With these pensionado (retiree) cards, we are supposedly able to get discounts ranging from ten to fifty percent. However, whatever has been floating around out there regarding these discounts, we need to qualify this.

There has been mounting tension over these discounts and some Panamanians are upset that the government has allowed such “bonuses” to pensioners who are mostly gringos or foreigners.

Some restaurants have raised their prices to cover this discount or simply won’t accept the cards. Other restaurants are only giving a ten percent discount instead of the expected twenty-five percent reduction. Another store will tell you that you are already receiving a discounted price, so sorry not this time.

A hotel, we recently stayed in, couldn’t give us our discount since we were already receiving their promotional rates. Most hotels now offer higher rack rates in order for you to receive the fifty percent discount which would only amount to around a ten percent reduction over their promo rates, if that.

We’ve also heard that some ex-pats (gringos) have received their Pensionado cards through illegal channels which doesn’t really help the rest of us. More wrinkles in the beautiful complexion of paradise?

The main discounts you are supposed to receive when you qualify as a pensionado (retiree) in Panama are:

  • 50% off entertainment activities such as sporting events, movies, theatres, concerts, etc.  AND hotel stays from Monday through Thursday AND closing costs for home loans.
  • 30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday AND bus, boat and train fares.
  • 25% off plane fares AND restaurants.
  • 20% off medical consultations AND professional and technical services.
  • 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies) AND fast-food restaurants AND dental and eye exams.
  • 10% off medical prescriptions.

I’ve been told it’s better to apply for your visa as soon as you arrive in the country. Then make a return trip later with your freight, if you plan to bring any, so you can take advantage of the one-time exemption from duties on the importation of household goods (max $10000) AND an exemption every two years from duties on the importation, or local purchase, of a vehicle.

A wise decision we unfortunately didn’t make and paid for it because we didn’t follow protocol. Our taxes amounted to an additional $500 for our used goods, our customs broker cost an additional $150 for his services and our customs inspector had to be given an extra $50 so she wouldn’t thoroughly inspect our shipment and detain us any longer. Also include the cost of boarding our pets, the car rental, gas and hotel stays for what ended up being a five-day adventure instead of the originally planned one-day trip. Get out the wrinkle cream again!

Our freight-shipper from Canada, after receiving several perplexing emails from us about how the process was being handled, decided to pull Panama from their list of preferred shipping destinations. It appears our freight manager had the wrong information, telling us we could clear our shipment through customs ourselves and there would be no taxes or additional fees above the $2000 we had already paid. Paradise is starting to crumble.

So please be careful when dealing with your visa application and shipping of your freight, if you plan to move overseas, and please make sure to get the right information by contacting an attorney or customs broker in Panama before making the trip. In this way, you’ll have far less wrinkles and more money in your pocket to spend on your dream day-trips in paradise.

Until next time…buenas tardes from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 15

The Real Reason Why I Chose Panama to Retire

Buenas tardes from Panama!

About a month ago, I wrote a blog about the top ten reasons of why I chose Panama as a retirement destination. I’ll repeat myself in case you missed reading that one. Panama has a lower cost of living, is an international banking hub and starting a business there is easier. It has a nicer climate than Canada especially when it comes to snow and cold, has the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans in close proximity and a noticeable lack of pesky insects. Panama is also an international travel hub, has a fairly decent infrastructure and more people that are friendly than not.  Its food choices are comparable and perhaps tastier and it’s a nature-lover’s paradise.

This list of reasons is pretty spectacular, hard to beat and states a strong case for Panama as a retirement destination. My thoughts haven’t changed much regarding this topic and I’ve said this before that I believe we take a lot of things for granted in Canada. However if I ranked Panama as an eight out of ten stars at the time I wrote that blog, it probably would rank as a seven now.

A friend of mine, while we were traveling to La Barqueta beach the other day, repeated a profound statement that he had made earlier in the week. It went something like this, “If you were to look at any particular Panamanian place and then travel to another location in Panama, not much would change.” Towns and landscapes in Panama do look very similar. Now I haven’t seen every place in Panama but I must admit he has a strong argument. Since that statement was made, it’s changed my way of thinking and you know he may be right!

These kinds of thoughts have been stirring around in my head lately. The other night I was awakened in the early hours of the morning by a car alarm and then by the construction of a building next door at seven a.m.  Trust me, if it isn’t barking dogs waking you up in the middle of the night, something or someone will! I couldn’t go back to sleep so as I laid in bed, my thoughts brought me to a place where I really wondered why I had chosen Panama as a retirement destination.

Being a third-world country, I expected Panama to have some poverty-stricken areas but until you see it for yourself, you don’t realize how much poverty there really is. It’s almost to the point of embarrassment and sadness for the Panamanians who are living in these conditions. I certainly never felt this way in Canada when I witnessed similar situations. Man, I really feel for these people!

Whether it’s as a result of not caring enough or the inability to create change, Panama’s people appear not to be concerned. You can see a well-landscaped, well-constructed home where it’s easy to notice that the owner has made an effort to take care of his property and right beside it, the entire opposite is true. Although we see the same thing in Canada, it’s the difference in the extremes of wealth and poverty here that stands out so much.

What’s nice about the Panamanian people who are poverty-stricken though is that they don’t appear to be worried about as many petty things as we are. Some of us are too quick to judge others and don’t realize that these poor people are just trying to survive on a day-to-day basis. The children wear little clothes and are smiling while playing out in the yard. This is a very precious thing to observe.

This comes down to the real reason I chose to live in Panama. I wanted to get away from the pettiness that I encountered unfortunately, almost on a daily basis in Canada. I often wished when I was there that people would just try to get along with each other. I’m sorry to say that a lot of Canadians do not know how to treat each other with respect and consideration. Deciding not to speak to a family member is childish and immature and is no way to handle poor communication within a relationship. And get this, it’s happening on both sides of our families at all levels as we speak.

So my word of the day is petty. Please think about what you are doing and if you are being so petty that it affects your daily existence, please stop it right now. Related word choices according to Merriam-Webster are small-minded, intolerant, narrow interests and sympathies, biased, wrong-headed, discriminatory, biased, opinionated, unsophisticated, limited and stubborn. This describes our situations beautifully.

We can all decide how we’re going to approach our day each time we awake. You can choose to reach out and be happy or you can choose to be miserable and petty. What choice did you make today?

Buenos noches from Panama, Don

Update From Panama June 6

The Sol y Mar Beach Resort

Buenos dias from Panama!

As we were relaxing on the terrace at Cuesta del Sol in the stifling humidity, I said hello to a tall man who was walking past us. Thus began the story of the Las Lajas Man!

His name shall not be mentioned as to protect the innocent! Oh, hogwash, his name was Cal! He had started a trucking business in Coaldale, Alberta to provide for his family. Yep, another fine Canadian!

He told us about the Sol y Mar Resort in Las Lajas, a short distance down the road from David, where he was part-owner in two properties there. He offered to let us stay in one of the six-plex condos available within a hundred metres or so of the beach.

The unit we stayed in was well laid out, very clean and contained two-bedrooms and two bathrooms. If a person decided to purchase this particular unit as a rental investment, it would be able to split into two one-bedroom, one-bathroom units allowing for a higher rental yield. Other layouts are also available.

There are potential plans in the work by the owner to build another six-plex condominium building, a swimming pool and a marina on the property. The timeline for this was not firmly established in our conversation.

You can access the Sol y Mar Resort by turning right at the T-intersection located at the end of the Las Lajas town road. You then drive past the Las Lajas Resort property on the left hand side and continue down a pretty rough road for about three kilometres. This particular road is in the works to be upgraded soon to allow easier access to the resort.

Sol y mar has a gorgeous beach area and is probably the best you’ll find anywhere in Panama, in my opinion. Swimming is much safer here than many other Pacific beach locales in Panama with respect to rip-tides. We had a very enjoyable three days and would recommend this resort without hesitation.

Check out some of the photos for this area by clicking on the Sol y Mar tab above.

Until next time…buenas tardes, Don

Update From Panama June 6

Three Considerations Regarding Overseas Health Care (specifically Panama)

1) Both health care and health insurance can be of higher quality and lower cost overseas.

We’ve only used a doctor’s services twice since we’ve arrived here in Panama. After our initial blood and urine analyses, an EKG and a chest x-ray were performed and we answered a few standard medical questions through a doctor’s interview, our results were considered normal. Our health care coverage became effective as of last week. On a side-note, I have to boast a little here. Once the doctor reviewed my results, he said that my triglyceride and cholesterol levels were “beautiful”. Pretty cool, eh!

On a separate occasion, my wife’s thirty-minute doctor’s appointment cost US$10. The doctor spent a fair amount of time getting background information and then went beyond the call of duty, in my opinion, with respect to his explanation and advice on what to do. He even used some of his personal anecdotes to explain that her condition was normal and there was nothing to worry about.

2) Local insurance costing as little as US$100 (or less) can be all the health care coverage you need.

The cost of health insurance can be less depending on where and what age you are. After researching our various options, we chose the Panama Health Insurance Plan through the Chiriqui Hospital in David, as many expats we know have recommended and done this. In general, the younger you are, the less you pay. As a couple in our fifties, we are paying US$115.50 per month, which is pretty reasonable for the amount of coverage we are receiving.

Pre-existing conditions, after your tests have been done, can cause concern as your health care coverage is reduced to 50% of medical costs after an initial period of two years. This is definitely something that should be considered when making your decision to go with health insurance or not, which leads into the next statement.

3) Your best option can be no health insurance at all.

In Panama, as I mentioned earlier, routine office visits can cost as little as $10. So some expats have chosen to go with no health insurance plan at all and simply pay for medical expenses as they arise. It’s a personal decision only you can make.

Until next time…buenos tardes from Panama, Don