Before moving to Panama I had bought and sold properties. I had, and still have a very good working knowledge of how the real estate business is governed in Alberta. The whole game changes in Panama!!
In Panama, there is no real estate board. You need 2 very important things when buying or selling in Panama, one, a real estate agent you can trust, and two,a lawyer you can trust. Two very important things!! Without them you cannot move forward and could be caught in loop-holes and time warps that boggle your mind.
So now that you have left it to your trusted professionals, you can get on with the planning and execution of living in Panama. I will use this page to post little tid-bits of advice as I think of them. My site is very user friendly so you will find a lot of information on my links page and in my blog page if it's not here.
You may wish to drive when you are down here. On a tourist visa you can really get away with driving with your foreign license, especially in a rented car, but to be legal when living here, you should have an international license just to be safe. (I really don't like messing around with the Panamanian police). Just take your Canadian license to who ever issued it and they can get you rolling on it. In Alberta you have to go to AMA with a couple passport photos, pay 25 bucks if I remember right, and they fill you out your license right there. If you have a class 1, you get a class 1 international license. It needs to be renewed once a year. On a pensionado visa or immigrant visa you can qualify for a local license so no problem there.
Even though you probably won't be able to open a bank account in Panama for the first while, until you have a bit of stability anyway, you should set up a USD currency account in Canada and move the money you want to spend into it and try to get a USD credit card. I have not done this, and my bank card only works at an atm, and both my credit card and bank cards get charged who knows what for exchange rate and fees but it's not cheap. Definitely not par or even close.
Magic Jack is the cheapest and most reliable way I have found so far of making international calls. Skype works but is really slow. With Skype you have to pay to phone a phone too, Magic Jack is free except for the hardware which can be used from anywhere to anywhere. Skype is great thoough when you have a good internet connection for catching up with close friends and family because you can see each ohter. It really is like you never left home:)
To get a cell phone in Panama, you are going to need to have an address and show proof of income. For proof of income I just showed a bank statement with a miscelaneous deposit and smiled nice. That works. They asked for a utility statement to proove address, I guess if you don't have one you will have to get creative. Before I came down I sold my telus locked phone and bought one straight from apple. This allows me to keep a Canadian phone number and a telus sim card. I run my Panama sim card typically, and throw my telus card in whenever I need to check my messages. Once I have a Magic Jack number I should be able to get rid of the telus number, but I am still stuck in a contract of 50 per month so timing is a bit off.
Canadian mail is easy to deal with, you will need to go to a Mailboxes Etc. in Canada and get a box (address). Now you can have your mailing address as the Canadian location, but UPS will forward your mail to any Mailboxes Etc. in the world. There may be 10 or more here in Panama City, and there is one in Coronado. Probably every small tourist town here has one. Here, you set up a Miami address. Everything that you get shipped via amazon.com, ebay.com etc, you just use your Miami address and it comes from Miami to Panama for free.
Police. Yes, they are corrupt. Make sure you have your international drivers licence, your provincial drivers licence and your passport if you are driving. Also, keep 10 or 15 dollars tucked in the pages of your passport, that works 9 out of 10 times. This removes the akwardness of you or the police having to ask. Sometimes the penalties can be severe for certain infractions, like losing your licence and your car. They took my wife's licence for going 99 in an 80 zone, plus 135 dollar fine, and if I hadn't been there to drive, her car would have been towed and that would have been a nightmare. If I had had 10 bucks tucked in my passport, it would have cost 10 bucks.... Another time, my wife had left her purse in the house so she had no ID. When I ran a red light and pretended to speak no Spanish, they immediately began to pick on her as she is Panamanian. Because she had no ID, they were going to take her to jail, so I had to pay 30 bucks to keep her out of jail and get me out of the red light ticket, only because there were 2 cops. I'm pretty sure they are generally happy with 10 or 15 per. Anyway, I'm still learning, :)
I had a trip planned for Canada. I was going to leave on Saturday, but I got busy here and couldn't go. Anyway, my latest discovery, I pulled my suitcases out of the closet and they had big spots of mold on them. It happened earlier on one of my belts, a really old one. So I guess with the humidity it is important to keep your luggage in a dry place with plenty of air movement. The best was about 25 years old so I am guessing it was just grimy, none of my other belts have done it. It's funny because I showed a house the other day and we all walked into the closet. The owner of the house said that she had a nice high place in the open closet especially for her luggage because there is nothing worse than going to pack for a trip and having to throw your clean clothes into a moldy suitcase.
Hungry for more information on your move to Panama? Need financial information, tips on attaining a visa, and other miscellaneous bits of very valueable information? Have a listen to Rich Novak and I on Overseas Radio. http://overseasradio.com/rich-novak/