Will you be having a long stay in Panama City in the near future? Are you coming for work, play, or to do some research on the country? Whichever is your case, we have assembled a list of the essentials you must know before coming here, that will definitely make your life a lot easier.
Learn the Basics of Spanish
Even though many Panamanians speak English and will be willing to help you out, it is best that you learn words and phrases to move around for the basic essentials like hailing a cab or ordering a meal. If you have some time before coming here, we suggest you take an online class or use an app like Duolingo (which is very flexible with the time you dedicate to it) to learn the basics of Spanish.
If you are going to be staying in Panama for indefinite time or just want to really learn Spanish we recommend you check out Casco Antiguo Spanish School. This establishment is very popular among tourists and expats who want to learn the language as soon as possible. They offer Spanish lessons suitable for all levels and purposes with the promise having you speaking Spanish as quickly as possible while immersing you in Panama’s culture completely.
Educate yourself about the culture
Panama is a wonderful place with a very rich culture. When you come here you will notice how diverse this country is, full of people with diverse backgrounds. Take the time to learn about the history, geography (you will find very beautiful places while learning about it), indigenous people, etc.
Knowing how the locals are will give you an advantage in planning while you stay here. It will also be helpful when dealing with situations that could represent big cultural shocks, so you already know what to expect.
Learn about the weather
Panama has two types of season like most tropical countries do. Sunny (which can be appreciated from late December to late April) and a rainy season that starts from May to December. Of course, this may vary, Panamanians will be the first to confirm that when it’s supposed to be rainy season there could be a beautiful sun at 11:59 a.m. and at 12:01 rain could be pouring harsh from the sky.
Tip: Remember Panama is a small thin piece of land surrounded by two seas. Humidity levels here are quite high during parts of the year so don’t forget to bring fresh clothes.
Download the Must Have Apps
If you want to adjust as smoothly as possible in Panama, then start living like a local. There are five apps that Panamanians always use:
- WhatsApp: Every person who owns a smartphone in Panama, has WhatsApp. It is THE way to communicate with other people without having to call them. It has gained so much popularity in this country, that even businesses use them frequently to talk to their future or actual customers. Don’t be surprised if you find the app’s icon on billboards around the city. It’s quite normal.
- Über or Cabify: You probably know what Über is, a private taxi company. As a foreigner, ordering Übers will help you a lot, especially if you don’t know the language or address of your destination. Yellow taxis in Panama tend to charge more to those who seem clueless about the fares or the language whatsoever. Besides if you ever have a need to take a yellow cab taxi you will notice that it may take a few attempts before one says yes.
- Waze: If you decided to drive in Panama Waze will be your best friend. It basically is a turn-by-turn navigation system. All you need to do is put in your current address and destination and it will guide you completely. This app tracks the traffic, road conditions, reports accidents and police officers, if any. It is basically an app that crowdsources the information from the other users, so you can bet it is reliable.
- Degusta: Is an app that will showcase all of the restaurants in Panama. Generally, you will find the restaurant’s schedule, address, phone number, overall rating, pictures taken by users, and comments about the food. If you have no idea of where to eat out, Degusta will help you make a decision faster and probably help you avoid an unpleasable dining experience.
- Google Translate: This app is always helpful when visiting a place where you don’t speak the language fluently. Simply say something or type it on the screen and it will translate it to the desired language right away. Don’t worry if you can’t speak it yet, just show it to the person and they will understand.
Hire Relocation Professionals
Everybody’s situation is different, some may relocate on their own and others may relocate with their family. Whichever is your case, the best stress-free way to handle this situation is by hiring a relocation expert. Why? It’s good to have someone on your side that already knows the way things are in that specific country. Before you hire any company, research them so you can make sure they are a trustworthy company.
If you are relocating here with a company you work for, chances are that your company will be taking care of most of your needs already, but if that’s not the case or you prefer to do it on your own, hiring a relocation professional is your best move.
How will professionals help you?
1. Immigration Procedures
Immigration policies may change depending of the country you are coming from. Relocation companies generally offer services including:
- Studying your immigration case
- Gather the necessary attorneys for you
- Process your visa and your family’s (if needed)
- Registration of Visa with the International Police Department
- Obtaining a Local Identity card
Having someone who knows the country’s laws will give you guidance and ultimately help you save time.
2. Housing Assistance
They can show you the different options and neighborhoods that adjust to your needs. They will help you with:
- House Hunting
- Lease Negotiations
- Pre-occupancy inspection, to avoid any surprises
- Move-in Process
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3. Family & Education Assistance if needed
Relocating on your own is already quite a change, needing to do it with your family will require a bit more research
- Overview of opportunities for your spouse in the country
- Search for schools that fulfill requested requirements for your children
- Processing of recognition of studies (if necessary)
- Advise of required forms and paperwork
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4. Cross Cultural Training about the country
Many experts take the time to give you an introduction of the country you will be relocating to, give you an overview of what to expect and prepare you for the new culture, values, attitude and behaviors.
5. New Life Preview
The company you hire should also take the time to give you a preview of everything you should expect while living in panama like
- Brief City Tour to show location of all basic living necessities like supermarkets, banks, etc.
- Give you a House overview
- Give you and your family a Schooling overview
6. Assistance Settling in
And last but not least whoever you choose can help you set up some additional needs you may have like:
- Car Purchase, Lease, or Registration guidance
- Household goods and international shipment (if needed)
Relocating to any country is heavily involved and requires specific planning. Those who have done it before, are aware that this is not the easiest task to tackle, but already know that it is possible. As you can see, it can be done faster with professionals that already have the experience, knowledge and passion for this task.