Advice on driving from Canada to Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:03
THIS E-MAIL CAME IN ASKING FOR ADVICE ON DRIVING FROM CANADA TO PANAMA
On Dec 18, 2009, at 6:50 PM, Allyne M wrote:
Yes, Panama was the most complicated paperwork, especially as we were staying here with our dogs - the others were aware we were "in transito" but in practice Panama was the easiest country to enter (It was Dec 23rd, they were packed - and I paid $10 because there was no vet to inspect - and we were in). They are trying to clear up the corruption at Immigration.
If you live closer to Toronto you can do all of Panama paperwork there at the Consulate on Bathurst St.
DO NOT pay attention to statement that the paperwork for Panama must be "within 10 days". That rule is only for arriving through the airport, and put in by the vets, not the government of Panama. You do not have to send paperwork ahead, but if you call ahead, they will have a vet ready to inspect, cuttting down your waiitng time.
The way to get paperwork done for Panama is to first get the correct forms, get them notarized, then get the notary's signature authenticated by Official Records Office (Toronto or Ottawa), then make photocopies, and then take all of that to the Panamanian consulate or Embassy.
All countries need an international vet certificate and recent shots list. Check the website of each country to see if they need anything else.
The only county that does not have an embassy in Ottawa is Nicaragua. You will need to go to their embassy in Washington DC (sort of on your way anyhow).
We did the trip in 30 days, stopping for a week in Guatemala to visit friends. You have lots of time.
DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT. I almost t-boned an 18 wheeler at 80 km an hour because it was across the entire highway — completely dark without even a reflector. The engine died when it tried to cross the major highway and the driver just left it there. Small kids, entire families, and farm animals all over the roads are equally dangerous/hazardous.
A tip - pack everything in clear plastic containers, and have a list of everything (in Spanish if you can) - taped to the top of each box - that way the customs guys can just look in, see what you have and you won't have to haul everything out for them to inspect. The dog will discourage them from coming inside to inspect as well.
Always use the young guys at the border to help you. They are well worth the $5.
Try to arrive at each border in the morning. Every border - entering and exiting - will take 2 - 3 hours - so bring coffee, something to read and relax. Vets only work day hours and take lunches off - so mornings are best, and not Sundays.
It was an amazing trip - if you stay on the pay roads it will be smooth sailing. The free roads are much, much rougher, but more interesting sites.
Check the web for news of any problems - but know that every country you go to, they will tell you the NEXT country is very dangerous. We did not go through El Salvador - but others have (see Chris and Kristin - www.drivetheamericas. com
) They loved El Salvador. They have just driven from California to South America and are on their way back.
The book - Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America by Rob Sangster and Tim Leffel was the most useful book (and I bought them all)
I bought a Magellan GPS - it took us to the front door of the Nicarauguan Embassy in Washington - a godsend. They now have fairly good maps of Central America you can buy online - Google "GPS maps for Central America". About $150 per country. GPS maps for Mexico and Costa Rica were really needed.
The so called World Phone from Rogers and Blackberry's so called "global services" did not work - useful only in Canada and USA. Buy cheap cell phones with SIM cards and pay as you go minutes.
Good luck, write it all down, take lots of photographs and send them to me - I will post them on the site.
Drive carefully during the day, don't drink and drive and for God's sake - don't let anyone near your vehicle if you think they have smoked/touched or even thought about drugs - it is more serious than you can even imagine.
E-mail me along the way. I look forward to buying you guys your first cold one in Panama! Roberto Chocolaté
PS: it's now Dec 19th - it is 94 degrees and sunny. Bring sunscreen.
Tidal surge damages restaurants in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:43
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...
On Saturday afternoon my wife was walking the dogs on the beach at Santa Clara and decided to rest for a spell. She laid down seventy feet from the water’s edge. Suddenly a rouge wave smashed into her, tossing her around like a rag doll, badly scrapping her legs. When she was finally able to struggle to her knees, her expensive sunglasses and favorite beach shoes were gone. Thankfully the dogs, especially our older dog had been even further away from the water and were not taken out by the undertow.
It seems sunglasses and shoes were not the only thing lost yesterday when an seventeen-foot surge smashed ashore around four o’clock Saturday afternoon. The true tragedy is that people lost their lives, at least two people drowned in the Pacific beaches area. Our hearts go out to the families of those people. Houses and business’s are damaged, some possibly beyond repair, and closer to home a young man lost a dear friend.
Henry Somenugå is a love-able young man who at four months old contracted a high fever. Lack of money and medical aid left him deaf and as a result, he never learned to speak. He works as a dishwasher at Woody’s Bar and Grill in his hometown of Farrallon. Henry is part of the Woody’s family. His disability does not deter his spirit. His squeals of happiness upon seeing you as you enter will light up your entire day.
Two years ago, Monique got him a pet toucan named Samantha, who was also disabled. Her wing had been broken when an eagle attacked it. Life is harsh in the jungle. Samantha was well loved and well taken care of by Henry. Always the center of attention, Sam was constantly being photographed and fed treats by guests. The life of Riley, until late Saturday afternoon.
At sixteen hundred hours a seventeen-foot high tidal surge smashed into Woody’s Bar and Grill. The guests and staff ran shrieking to safety, but not Henry. Unconcerned for his own safety, he turned and ran back into the restaurant to save his beloved Samantha. Just as he entered the building, a second huge wave smashed in the iron gates, ripping out the palm trees, and demolished the six foot-high cement walls, it exploded the glass windows like they were made of balsa wood.
The salt water mixed with septic tank contents, sink drains, grease traps and toilets water together with the black sand created a toxic, filthy wall of water. All Henry could think of was Samantha trapped inside her cage. Racing against time, he fought his way underwater, through the filth, glass and debris. Woody raced back in to rescue Henry.
As the water receded, the full extent of the damage could be seen. Ice makers tossed across the room liked toys, full freezers set on their ends, heavy steel tables crushed against the far wall, the debris filled with sand and mud. Despite serious cuts that required many stitches, Henry frantically pulled away debris until he found the crushed cage and the lifeless body of Samantha, drowned inside her cage.
Ironically, animals can sense the impending danger, and will flee even before humans can detect anything amiss. Samantha’s protective cage became her prison and her death sentence.
My wife and I bring sandwiches and coffee to Woody’s as we deliver the review from yesterday’s paper. It is a bitter-sweet moment. I see the pain in Henry’s eyes, yet he still manages a hug and a small smile as we enter the sand-filled devastation that was filled with customers yesterday.
Henry shows me his scrapes, bruises and stitches. He is walking around in a daze, the flip flops he found are two sizes too large for his feet. He seems not to notice. How terrifying to be trapped inside his silent world, unable to call out for help, unable to save the thing he loved most. Sometimes life is just not fair.
Monique is trying to be tough, but the tears flow when she talks about Henry. “His silent sobs as he buried his little friend was almost too much for us to bear” she said.
Woody’s will reopen, bigger and better than ever, she and Woody vow. “We will be open by November first, you just wait and see”. I believe her.
I leave to check the other bar that I had reviewed on Saturday - Pipas. The front-end loaders and trucks are already clearing out Pipas Beach Bar and Grill. It will be re-opened in two days. They were built higher up and further away from the water, so they are fine. I also discover that Las Verenarus in Santa Clara is flooded, but still mostly undamaged. It will take some digging out and cleaning up, but their kitchen is already serving food.
Woody’s is badly damaged, and a young man’s heart is broken. The bar will be rebuilt, and Henry will heal.
Could this disaster have been prevented? Yes. A clear early-warning system delivered in both Spanish and in English would have alerted people in time to save property and pets. Safety glass in all windows facing the sea, building first floors on open stilts, using v-shaped steel storm barriers on shoreline properties to dissipate waves, and most importantly enforcing high-water building limits would all help lessen the detestation, and possibly safe lives.
It sometimes takes an incident like this to force developers and builders to build stronger safeguards against tidal force surges. Better yet lets get inspectors to enforce the rules that are already in place, and stop developers from skirting the law with well placed cash incentives. Earthquakes, major storms and tsunami’s can, and do happen in Panama, despite what the real estate spin doctors try to say.
Santa Clara, Panama - Our Winter Home
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:55
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The house is 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, 2,800 sq. ft. inside/ 3,300 sq. ft. roofed Spanish style bungalow with cathedral ceilings on a 2,000 square meter (1/2 acre) lot. It has cathedral ceilings, wood decks, red roof tiles and is painted a Spanish yellow with contrasting blue exterior wall. Two sets of sliding patio doors, twelve large opening windows and a front and rear exit door.
The Environment wins
Last Updated on Saturday, 05 March 2011 13:36
For once - the environment won.
The President of Panama, under pressure from the Noble-Bugle Indian tribe, repealled the contentious new mining law. This means at least one of the open pit mines the South Korean mining company (in co-operation with Canadian mining company Minera aka Inmet Mining) will be stopped. The companes stock dropped on the world markets as news of the setback hit the streets.
The following is an article from www.thepanamanews.com
Medical Insurance in Panama
Last Updated on Sunday, 24 October 2010 13:03
My husband and I visited Panama last May for a month and we loved it so much that we will be making a retirement trial run in a few weeks, my main concern is health insurance. I'm 65 and Medicare does not cover outside the US, I have been to a few Travel Insurance sites but the max coverage is 72 days and we will be there for 5 months.
We would like a policy that covers catastrophic incidents and medical evacuation if needed, any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Why Santa Clara over other beach communities?
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:39
The following e-mail came in today. I thought everyone would benefit from the answer. Roberto
My husband and are are both dual citizens of Canada and the US and are interested in retiring in Panama. We will likely retire within the next three years however we are interested in buying real estate now. I noticed that you live in Santa Clara - why did you pick that community over the other pacific beach communities. Do you have contacts in the real estate community that we could work with?
What about the Caribbean side of Panama - my husband and are both scuba divers and are under the impression that the diving is better there - any comments?
Any and all assistance is welcomed as we are likely planning a trip to Panama in the next couple of months. The information on your web site has been helpful and will continue to serve as a valuable resource as we move forward towards retirement - thank you.
Mary Beth :)
Dear Mary Beth,
Thank you for your kind words. I am pleased that you have found the site useful. It's fun to be able to report honestly and not have to worry about an advertiser canceling or a boss not liking what I report. I don't make any money from the site, but I do get a lot of free meals and stuff as I review resorts, hotels, restaurants, and tours/attractions in Panama - it's worth it to me.
I find it amazing that the site is attracting over one hundred thousand hits a month!
Like most people, I first came to Panama on a holiday/researching retirement destinations. We stayed at one of the only two all-inclusive resorts in Panama (The Royal Decameron or Playa Blanca) which are both based here in this area (that alone should give you a hint as to best locations in Panama)
NOTE: A third all inclusive resort called Breezes just opened, calling its location as being on Santa Clara beach - they are not - they are in Sea Cliff which is 5 km away - but Santa Clara has a much better reputation. Breezes is gorgeous by the way - expensive, and geared for a younger holiday crowd (families with kids) but fun.
Why Santa Clara?
Santa Clara is considered one of the best beaches in Panama - whiter than most, very long, uncrowded (except on holidays when EVERYBODY goes to the beach). It has very calm, warm waters, excellent bars and restaurants and beautiful homes on the ocean.
Our house is not on the ocean, we are 300 meters away. We are the poor kids on the block. We can't see the ocean, but we can hear it and walk to it easily.
We chose the Pacific side because we don't like rain. The Caribbean side is MUCH wetter than the Pacific. In fact Santa Clara is located inside the "Dry Arch", which means this area from Farallon to Coronado gets more sunshine than any other location in Panama. However - this area is HOT, all year 'round. My wife wanted a tropical climate and this is it.
Some people prefer the cooler mountain temperatures (70 - 85 degrees). As the movie title suggested; Some like it hot.
There are many different climate and living styes in Panama - from hot, Antillian/wet Caribbean, bone dry desert, lush tropical jungles, hot beaches, exotic islands, cool mountains and a steamy, cosmopolitan capital city of 1.3 million Latinos.
My suggestion - as always - is to rent first. Give yourself time to experience all the areas, both in dry and wet season. The cool, lush mountains are also much wetter than the beach areas, especially in what I call The Green Season (or the growing season)
Every paradise has its thorns. I live in one of the most exclusive beach communities in Panama. However, as I write, hundreds and hundreds of evangelical Baptists are screaming over loudspeakers on bother sides of my house - front and back. Imagine four solid days of loud music, fireworks, amplified praying, singing, screaming, clapping, cheering and yelling from 7 A.M to 2 A.M. After four days of this they are now talking in tongues. They have rented the empty property beside me. They will go home this after noon, and life will return to "normal". It is a small price to pay for never having to shovel a driveway again or worry about a hurricane.
It is Carnival time in Panama. Sleep is not an option anywhere in Panama during Carnival. Buy ear plugs. Go out and enjoy the parades, the parties and the dancing. Learn to do the meringue and salsa. Everything is closed during Carnival anyway.
If this bothers you, consider a nice quiet rest home in Florida, or a strict gated community that is devoid of any Panamanian culture.
I say again - give yourself time to learn and experience this exciting, and sometimes frustrating country.
Hooked on a Feeling - Fishing in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:47
World famous fishing spot at Piñas bay
FISHING ADVENTURE - Hooked on a feeling
I have heard rumors of a mythical fishing lodge where fishing virgins are transformed into seasoned pros.
A failed fisherman and eternal optimist, I find myself seated in a tiny charter plane en route to one of the top fishing resorts in the world, the Tropic Star Lodge in the Darien.
An hour later, we rise sharply over Mount Cerra Pina, and drop spectacularly onto the seaside runway.
Somebody wisely hands out cocktails as we deplane. We pile into a tractor-pulled wagon, and begin a breathtaking journey through primal Darien jungle to Pinas Bay.
My fellow fishermen and women consist of an eclectic collection of Americans, Canadians, Europeans, South Americans and a Panamanian.
According to their web site, morefishing records have been set at the Tropic Star Lodge than anywhere else in the world.
But a truly great resort requires more than splashy fishing records, and since the lodge counts world leaders, movie stars and captains of industry among its clientele, I am hoping for more than improved fortune on the open water.
We arrive at the lodge, and are met by our hosts, owners Terri and Mike Andrews. Over a spectacular communal dinner, we begin to experience the uniqueness of the lodge.
The multi-course meal is spectacular, our hosts warm and welcoming, and their lodge casual and beautiful.
With a dawn awakening ahead of me, I bid my fishing comrades good night and retreat to my rustically elegant room. Tomorrow I shall see if The Tropic Star can accomplish the hitherto impossible, and make a fisherman out of me.
To portray myself as a deep-sea fishing underachiever would be an understatement. On each of three previous attempts, hungry predators ate my catch before I managed to haul a torn, bodiless head aboard.
But hope, as they say, springs eternal, and after a five-star breakfast the next morning my crew and I are on the open saltwater, and I find myself where I have been three times before — in the aptly named fighting chair.
Before long, a magnificent sailfish blasts out of the water. Twice my height and over half my weight, it rises again and again out of the water, struggling to tear the $1000 rod out of my hands. The mate snaps photos of my battle. I haul back, reeling in the test line as fast as I can. He breaks water, fighting harder than before, and takes 60 meters of line with him.
I start over, reeling him in as hard as I can. He goes deep and then races towards the boat. I furiously twirl the handle. All he needs is a little slack — a quick jerk and the line will snap.
A loose line can easily backlash and become entangled in the spool. He tries circling the boat to snare the line, but the captain comes to my rescue, manipulating throttles and steering wheel like a NASCAR pro.
He plows the boat backwards, splashing water over the aft rail of the cockpit. He then lurches suddenly forward, spins around and races to keep pace with my monster of the deep.
My arms are burning jelly. Just as I am about to lose him he rises out of the water and stays on the surface, signaling his exhaustion and capitulation.
With all my remaining strength I reel him into the boat. The mate takes a photo and slips the circle hook off. He slowly descends, his cold eyes staring me down as he disappears back into the deep.
This is the largest fish I have ever seen in the flesh, but nowhere close to a record ? maybe so, but he is my champion fish.
The Tropic Star Lodge was an experience I will never forget. Like the song says, I am hooked on the feeling. Treat yourself, and you will be hooked as well.
The detective’s web site is: http://www.retirementdetectives.com
All rates include a 31 foot Bertram yacht, captain, mate, fuel, tackle, air conditioned room, all meals, wine/beer: High season Dec 9 – March 12 = $2,800 per non-fishing person in The Palace (sleeps 6) to $4,995 per person per week (4 persons to a boat).
Surcharges for fewer than four per boat apply. Partial weeks and non-fishing rates are available.
TO GET THERE:
There are no roads to Pinas Bay. Air Panama or Aeroperlas have flights from Albrook Airport, $500 return. In Panama: www.tropicstar.com, (507) 232-8375. In the US: 1-800 682-3424.
Article reprinted with permission from the Panama Star
Commercial Real Estate Boom in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:12
Commercial real estate grew 25 percent last year
Office buildings and commercial centers are the most profitable
The market for office buildings has increased in all major world capitals
Commercial development has increased in Panama due to Law 41, passed two years ago to give multinational companies an incentive to establish their regional headquarters here.
Although the development of residential real estate "continues to go well" in Panama, the trend is to build commercial centers and office buildings for lease. Such projects grew by 25 percent last year compared to 2007, said José Gabriel Montenegro, general manager of the local Coldwell Banker real estate office.
"The market for office buildings has increased in all of the major world capitals, along with rents," said Montenegro.
In 2007, the average monthly rent per square meter of office space in Panama City was $16.20. In 2008, that figure climbed to between $20 and $25, while rent on annual leases varied from $22 to $28 per meter.
The price to purchase office space in Panama's financial district reached as high as $3,000 to $3,500 per square meter during the year. Compared to 2007, the average cost to rent office space in Panama rose 25 percent last year, according to CB Richard Ellis, said Montenegro. The market for malls and shopping centers is also active, mostly in high visibility stores leased to well-known brands.
Law 41, which established incentives for multinational companies to locate their regional offices in Panama, has already attracted 17 companies. Executives from these companies rent offices and residential real estate in Panama, meaning construction projects continue to grow as Panama grows.
Cell phone numbers in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:39
THIS E-MAIL CAME IN FROM A RECENT VISITOR
This is an enquiry e-mail via http://www.retirementdetectives.com/ from:
Just left Panama a week ago and loved Woody's. Great to get a Cesear away from home. While there Monique gave me her business card but the cell number on it seems to be a misprint. It has 11 numbers on it.
Would you be able to provide me with a phone number for either Woody's bar or Monique as friends of mine might be interested in real estate in Panama.
It is OK Abe - cell phones in Panama have an extra number, a 6, indicating it is a cell phone - just dial it normally. Remember to dial the
country code - 011 from Canada, then (507) then the 8 digit number.
Glad you enjoyed Panama - come join the Canadian slum - I warned the Panamanians that we would multiply if they didn't spray!!! LOL Roberto
Dangerous animals in Panama
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:50
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I get asked a lot about bugs, spiders, snakes and other dangerous animals in Panama - and The Retirement Detective is dedicated to telling it like it is - the good, the bad and the bizarre.