Relocation 101 How to Move to Panama

By Karyn Saunders

You have decided to move to Panama.  You have decided to buy or rent and have secured housing.  Your friends and family are either congratulating you and are secretly envious, or they are in a state of shock.  You, too, may be in a state of shock.  If it is anything like what happened to me, I remember standing there in the middle of the kitchen one afternoon, thinking, “What have I done and what do we do next?”

In our case, we had so much to do and not a lot of time to do it.  First, we had to sell our house.  Once we did that, we needed to find interim housing in Toronto, as our Panama home was not going to be finished for another eight months.  We than began purging in a very big way. I sold everything on Craigslist.  I sold hangers, clothes, furniture.  We had garage sales.  We sold two motocross bikes. Allan sold his house privately. We had three cars to sell (which we did in the 11th hour).  Well, all but one. The 88 Vette was spared and came to join us about six months after we moved.

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I only wish we had people like you find at IPRE to help us figure this all out.  Between our pets and some furniture and the whole act of downsizing, Operation: Relocate to Panama was exhausting, and for two not-highly-organized people I still can’t believe we accomplished all that we did while still working full time.  When we flew out of Toronto Island Airport in our small plane, closing our Toronto door behind us, I was once again in a state of shock.

By now, I have a few points of advice for those who are embarking on permanent relocation:

  1. Hire a consultant or consult a friend who was done an international move. You need someone who can get you organized and who has a network of shipping brokers and professionals who can make the process a lot easier.
  2. If you do not take my advice on #1, then do not leave ANYTHING  to the last minute.  Start your research on shipping companies and pet relocation now.
  3. If it can’t go with you on the plane, I would suggest filling an entire container.  Shipping things to Panama is done all the time, but I would suggest if you are going to do it, make it worth your while.
  4. If you have kids, consult with us on various International and Panamanian schools in the area.  We can put you in touch with parents who have kids in each of the schools.
  5. Make sure your passport is current and will not expire within six months of your travel date. (You would not believe the number of people who have arrived at the airport only to find that one member of their party has an invalid passport.)
  6. Leave your winter clothes with family or friends.  You will not need any of your cold weather clothes, and they will just get moldy sitting in your closet.
  7. Make sure you have organized the utilities at your new home. That means they are put in your name and they are up to date and paid.  You don’t want to arrive to no lights or water or WiFi.
  8. Confirm and double-confirm where you will be picking up the keys to your rental or purchased property, and make sure there is a back-up plan to that arrangement.
  9. Buy lots of sticky notes and do not be afraid of becoming neurotic with them.  Sticky note the pets and even your spouse, you would not believe what people have left behind.
  10. If you haven’t used it in the last six months, do not bring it.  It is as simple as that.  That applies to everything from your curling iron to your clothes to your place mats.  It is all just stuff and can be replaced.
  11. Scan your hard copy photos or leave them behind in a safe place.  The humidity will ruin your pictures and these are not replaceable.
  12. Remember throughout it all that you are not crazy.  Making a move to Panama is something you’ve wanted to do for years; once you land in the tropics, those sticky notes that are still stuck to your heads will soon be forgotten.

If you need any advice, recommendations or to find out what my wooden hangers sold for on Craigslist, let me know. We definitely have downsizing experience!

Enjoy the journey….we’ll see you in Panama, Sticky Notes and all!


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