This was exactly my dilemma.  What to do in a country that does not allow many foreigners to work very easily.


The rules are slowly changing, but right now a company can only hire 1 foreigner for every 10 people it employs, and it is kind of a pain for them to do so it they want to.  That really makes it quite a struggle if you want to be employed in Panama.  If a company doesn't take you right away, then you need to start the process of getting a work permit, again, really difficult without already being hired, getting married to a Panamanian, or spending lots of money.


Here's my best advise.  Become self employed.  Panama has very user friendly laws when it comes to foreign owned Panamanian companies.  All you really need is the standard tourist visa, and a legally registered company and you're good to go.  There are some restrictions on what type of business you can conduct, but for the most part, you can rent a space, hang a sign, and become a cog in the giant machine here in Panama that is commerce.  If you're a professional in Canada, you can become a consultant in Panama for example.  If you're a welder, open a shop, design and build security fences, add to that cctv, alarm, and razor wire sales, and boom, a thriving business you have.


One thing I've seen from living down here, is that there is always a customer.  Millions of them in fact.  There's a shortage of everything.  Seriously, it doesn't matter what idea you can come up with, rent the space, hang the sign, do some advertising and you will be making money.


Here's another idea.  Panama has no carwashes.  Well not like Canada anyway.  The carwashes here are big lots with just a roof over part of it.  You drive your car in and park, a man comes to your car with a hose, bucket, rag, vacuum etc. and washes your car.  It takes about 45 minutes but he does inside and out.  The problem is that Panamanians are busy.  Really, really busy, and it takes forever to drive anywhere.  There is usually a line at all the carwashes, so you have to wait an hour before they begin.  It's a 2 hour ordeal!  They charge 7 dollars, but the workers probably on get paid 10 bucks a day if that.  Lots of room here for more carwashes, and even better, a drive thru automatic wash, wow, it would be busy 24 hours a day I'm sure!!!


Labor is cheap in Panama.  Any labor related buiness that you can start is an advantage because of that important fact.  For example, I bought a desk at a furniture store the other day.  Nice desk, but cheap, pressed cardboard basically.  Well in Canada, you buy it, grab the unassembled box from the warehouse, head home and pour a glass of wine that evening while you labor thru the instructions and flange it all together.  4 hours and a bottle of wine later, ta-daaa!!  In Panama, you pay less, drive home and a day later the door bell rings.  5 men with boxes stand with eager smiles and a tool box.  In 15 minutes your desk is assembled and you are only half finished your glass of wine!!  This just shows how cheap labor really is.  A nice 400 dollar desk includes delivery and a 5 man team to speed assemble it right in your office!  And no hangover to boot!!


Again, a few weeks ago, I went to get the slow leaking tire fixed on my wife's car.  I went to Llantera, a company specializing in tires, and waited the half hour to get my tire fixed, I even watched the gentleman work on it.  It really took him the whole 30 minutes.  That repair cost me 4 dollars.  I laughed out loud.  Labor is inexpensive here and you can capitalize on that.


By the end of 2013 it is expected that there will be over 3000 new condo's in the city available for sale.  There is a new skyscraper everywhere you look in this city, I mean everywhere.  You can't believe it until you see it.  There are more cars then ever and the dealerships are insanely busy.  Window tinting.  Cheap labor.  Lots and lots of windows, lots and lots of sun, lots and lots of cars.  You get the picture.  There are even video's on youtube to train you how to tint those windows.


Franchises like TGIFridays, McDonalds, Wendy's etc. do fabulously here.  It would be such a great investment to have a Boston Pizza or Original Joes concept franchise here.  I mean the Panamanians are great workers, great people, and boy do they like to get out and have fun!!  TGIFriday's is just crammed every time we go there.  If there is a futbol game in Panama, and Panama is playing in it, the city is electric, there is not an empty chair in a single watering hole.  When Panama scores the entire city cheers, you can hear it from outer space I think....


Are you a computer programmer?  I mentioned in an earlier post that Panama is a difficult place to buy a car.  There are no organized websites like Autotrader or kijiji to kind of "get an idea" of market values, and even to find a used car is a real process.  An autotrader site in Panama would take off with the right sales staff!!  Heck, even online gambling is legal here!!  Start a bank, start a casino if your pockets are deep enough!


The simple truth is, there is no need to work for someone in Panama.  There is however a need for more businesses, seriously, get down here and help us out!!  All you need is your idea, 1200 bucks for your corporation, and the first month rent on your store front.  I can help you out with all of it.


Have a great day all!!

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In Panama, the rule is that there are 4 months of dry season, or summer, and 8 months of rainy season.  Well what does that mean?  Before I came I didn't really have the answer to that question, and still haven't seen an entire year pass, so I guess I can't personally say for sure yet.  I can however, tell you what it has been like weather wise for the last 2 months, in the full swing of the rainy season.


I'm in Panama City.  I have heard that it rains a little less in the interior of the country and a little less in the Coranado, Farallon area.  As far as the city goes, there isn't a depressing amount of rain.  We get a good day of rain per week, and then maybe 15%-25% of the other days with showers, if it rains at all.  Probably 3 days a week at least with no rain, and either sunny all day or partly cloudy.  I can say that it is sunny and hot enough of the time that when a rain or thunder storm blows in, it is a really nice relief, and awesome to watch.


The first storm that I watched roll in here was amazing.  The clouds are really low, they come rolling in off of the ocean gently caressing the tops of the skyscrapers.  The lightning crashes, sometimes blinding it's so close.  I have never in my life heard thunder so intense and so close.  If you're looking in the right place at the right time you can actually see the lightning rod of a building absorb the bolt.  The rain drops are the size of ball bearings and slap the tin roofs and earth with mighty force.  The sound of the traffic disappears.   I love mother nature.


When I was here in December, and later in late February, it was summer, or dry season.  The terrain was dry and brown, it was hot, maybe 3-5 degrees hotter.  Just no rain, sun all day.  Now, the earth is green and lush.  The palm trees are healthy looking, there's not a brown or yellow leaf to be seen anywhere, and the rain is no where near intolerable.


So there you have it, rainy season in Panama is definitely no winter in Vancouver, and from what I've heard, probably a lot dryer than many parts of Canada this summer!!!


Happy House Hunting!!!!



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I did quite a bit of reading before I came down in regard to just how inexpensive it is to live down here.  It is an important factor for anyone looking to locate in Panama.  There is no real simple answer because everything varies so much, but I want to write a bit about it anyway, just to give you all a current idea.


 I know for me, when searching the net, much of the information was old and outdated.  I have been driving my wife's car when I need to get around because I didn't have one (until now, I will update my car buying blog too), but one day she asked me to get a slow leaking tire fixed.  I was a little nervous in the big city here because I don't speak great spanish, I would say I'm on a level of a 3 year old...haha.  But I took a breath and headed for LLantera.  It's a tire sales and repair place near our condo.  


Anyway, to make what  could be a long story short, when the tire was finished, about 45 minutes after I arrived and the man started to work on it, a lovely woman waved me over and said quatro y tres.  I smiled and asked forty three?  I said it in English, which she did not understand, I knew this because I had to tell her what was wrong with the tire when I arrived, and it was challenging.  She answered "yes, forty three".  So I handed the cashier my credit card.  I almost bursed out laughing, literally, I was smiling ear to ear when I got the printed copy of the bill, and was signing my credit card copy.  $4.03!!  With 7% tax added.  It cost less than four dollars to fix the leak, and I watched the poor hombre work on it for at least 30 minutes.


So here is what I know:  A Balboa (beer) will run you about 50 cents, or, if you prefer 24, you will probably get over a dollar back from your 10 dollar bill.  Hard alcohol is about 1/3 the price of that in Canada and wine varies but a common price is around 7 dollars for a bottle.  I bought a nice Robert Mondavi Cab Sauv for 10 bucks, but I think Central and South American wines are quite a bit less, and good.  


Last month our power bill in the city was 4 dollars, water was 7, and garbage was 10.  A cell phone plan that in Canada would run over 100 dollars, here is 40.  Gasoline is about the same, maybe a bit more, bacon is really expensive.  I don't know why.  I like bacon but it's 8.00 at the grocery store.  I need to find an angle on the bacon.


The grocery store isn't always the best place to buy ALL of your groceries.  There are always markets, road side vendors etc. selling fruits, melons, and vegetables.  Usually way fresher and tastier for often only 10% or less of the price in the grocery store.  In smaller communities you can buy milk, eggs, and even cheese, freshly made that day, not unlike Canada but it's organic without the organic price...


Clothes are nuts.  You can buy nice jeans, t-shirts, shorts for 1.99 each.  Walmart type stuff but still... $1.99!  Everything is available here, Hilfiger, Cole, all the designers, but you are still going to have to pay designer prices, at least if you are going to the designer stores and want to be assured that you are getting the real thing.


So there you have it.  Panama is still a great place to retire on a budget or to escape the fast paced life Canada has become.  Your money goes at least twice as far here, the people are fantastic, the weather is perfect, and property values are only increasing!! 




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Today I am setting out to buy a car in Panama.  I’m not exactly sure what I will be buying yet but through my research, which requires extensive leg work compared to Canada, I have almost decided.  A few more stops today and I hope to swipe the credit card.


I began a few weeks ago by looking at used.  I searched high and low on the internet for some sort of organization similar to Autotrader in Canada and the USA, but the closest I could find was  Great classified site, but there is really not enough dealerships using it and hence it comes out a little like the olden days in Canada where people just ask what they feel the car should be worth, not its actual value plus good will.  This left me trying to pick between cars like a 1998 Civic with 120,000 city km for $5000 or a 2008 Yaris with unknown mileage and a mis-colored door panel for $5000. I have heard that many people can’t afford or don’t have the time to even do regular oil changes so it becomes a risky business really.


My next step was to drive up and down the main streets in the city and just stop at the corner dirt lots.  Their inventory was vast too, but still, they were asking even more for the same junk and a ton if it wasn’t junk.  Still no guarantee on the maintenance history but most dealers would offer a small guarantee.  Not enough though. 


The rental companies selling the ex-rentals was a better deal because at least the cars were probably maintained and less than new, some still with factory warranty, but still quite high priced for used.  If you can’t afford new, this is the option I would advise.  The cool thing is that this is Panama!  Things are cheap here right?

Right!!  Out of frustration and a tight wallet, I decided to see what a new car might cost.  Just a super-mini.  That is all I need to bomb around this country.  So far, I have found the Chery QQ, $6999.  The BYD F0, $8500.  There are others in the 10 – 12 range, way higher quality but out of my range.  I love the Kia Picanto and my favorite as far as eye appeal goes is the Peugeot  107.


Anyway, today I will try to grind on the price of the Chery and the BYD to see just how low I can get them to go.  In Canada, a Focus or a Fiesta has 600 dollars markup, but in Canada they actually have MSRP stickers in the windows.  Here, no!  Only one Chery dealer, only one BYD dealer, so it’s a monopoly.  I figure they are trying to make 3000 on both, I will try to get a $1500 dollar discount, free window tint, and wizzy wheels and tires.


I'll write a better blog about my shopping experinces later, after today I will have a lot to say I'm sure!! 


Have fun today!  I think I will :)

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