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Questions About Panama

Questions About Panama

Questions About PanamaQuestions About Panama

Cynthia Lehman cynthia@lehmanteam.com

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Questions About Panama. Panama is the not the third world country you may think it is.  When I talk to people about visiting here I find they ask interesting questions.  I am sharing some of them to address concerns you may have about traveling here. I have lived in Panama for over a year now and have enjoyed every minute of it.  The land mass of Panama is about the size of South Carolina and the population at the last census is just under four million. That is around the number of people who live in the city of Los Angeles, California!

Can you drink the water? I have traveled from one end of the country to the other.  I drink a lot of water and have had no problem drinking the tap water in restaurants, fondas, hotels, etc.  Keep in mind; I am not trekking through the jungle.

Can you flush toilet paper? For many of you this may seem very odd but once you are here you will get it. In various parts of Central and South America, toilet paper is thrown in the trash can or waste bin instead of being flushed in the toilet.  It’s not Panama’s practice to dispose of toilet paper by flushing and the old plumbing is not built to handle it.  Many places will remind you on the stall door. In most of the bathrooms there is a small wastebasket for you to use.  As the country continues to progress this is one of the things that is changing.

Is there hot water or an electric wire to give you hot water? Most Panamanian homes were built with only cold water throughout the house. Suicide showers, as they are called, are becoming a thing of the past. They are still available but people now prefer and have upgraded to Hot Water on Demand systems, gas or electric.  Most new construction now runs both lines throughout the home. Everywhere I have traveled in Panama hot water has been supplied through an on demand system.

How close are you to Columbia?  To some this may seem like a silly question but if you have not traveled much and don’t look at maps that often, this can be of concern to you.  There are a lot of countries that have ‘bad reputations’ and prevent people from traveling to them due to ‘misapprehension’.  The good news, a lot has changed and there are cities in Columbia that rank high on the retirement list.  Panama is bordered by Columbia on the east and Costa Rica on the west.  Unless you plan on hiking through the Darien (which is unbearable), you will not be that close to Columbia. There are no roads that will take you from Panama to Colombia.

Is there internet? In this day and age we do most of our communicating through the internet so, this is a legitimate question.  I was pleased to find that the reception in Panama is as good as or better than what I have in the United States.  The price is comparable as well. Who would have thought it?  In addition, the cell phone coverage is excellent as well and there are at least four Panamanian carriers to choose from (see my previous article for more information).

Can I get 600 TV channels? Well, I don’t know if you can get that many but you can get a lot.  The cable company here does a good job with the packages and prices they offer.  I know people who have Dish or DirecTV so they can watch their sports stations and they are thrilled.

Do they have chickens running around and roosters crowing? Yep, you will hear and see them a lot. But that also depends on where you are in the country. In Panama City you will not see chickens walking around or hear rosters outside of the skyscrapers. But as you go towards the interior (countryside), or many beach communities you will see them a lot.  I haven’t noticed it to be overwhelming.  It is funny when you pull up to a gas station and there is a chicken by the pump.  It gives new meaning to ‘free range chicken’.

What side of the road do they drive on?Like most of the world, in Panama we drive on the ‘right’ side of the road, no pun intended.  There are a few new roundabouts, not many traffic lights outside of the city (we use retornos) and lots of honking.  They use this as a way of communicating, “Hey watch out, I’m here or I’m coming through”.

Can I get good wine there? Great question, if you have ever traveled to a country where the selections are limited and horrible, you will understand.  We are fortunate here in Panama, there is a wide variety of wine available.  The grocery stores and wine/snack shops carry large assortments from all over the world.  This is one of the great benefits of the canal.

Is Panama safe?  Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America.  Much like anywhere you travel in the world there is always an element of crime.  I tell people that I want to be cautious without being paranoid. I don’t travel in places known to be ‘unsafe areas’ at night or by myself.  As with any country, using common sense is encouraged.  Don’t flash large sums of money or expensive jewelry.

What is the unemployment rate? Panama is the fastest growing country in Latin America. It is experiencing the lowest unemployment in 40 years at 4.5%. The construction of large infrastructure projects, such as the $5.2-billion Panama Canal expansion and a $1.8-billion subway in the capital city, have boosted the country’s economy and job opportunities.

What do you mean you don’t have a mailbox?  I recently celebrated by 29thbirthday, again.  My Dad wanted to send me a card and had a hard time grasping the concept of no mailbox.  How do get and pay your bills?  It’s easy, like most folks in the 21st century I do as much as I can online.  When I need to get something I use Mailboxes Etc. or something similar just down the street. This eliminates junk mail which makes my husband super happy!

What is the currency in Panama? The US dollar is the currency in Panama which is another great reason to visit or live here. I am not a mathematical genius so avoiding the currency exchange hassles makes me very happy.  It gives me more time to buy more stuff!

What time zone is Panama in?  From October to April it is Eastern Standard Time (EST) and Central Standard Time (CST) from April to October when daylight savings goes into effect in the States.  This is usually fairly easy to remember.  I did experience a slight problem with this on my most recent visit back to the States. I made an appointment and set the time and date my iPhone calendar (Panama Time).  However, when I went to my appointment I was an hour late because the calendar did not switch the time to EST because I had recorded the appointment in Panama, CST.  Lesson learned!

What shots do I need before I come to Panama? There are no required shots to visit Panama.  However, if you visit certain parts of the country the CDC has a list of recommended vaccinations prior to arriving.  Also there is a country entry requirement: The government of Panama requires proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever (this does not include the US)

For more information contact me Cynthia@lehmanteam.com

A bit more about panama here!

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