We are about to experience Carnival full blast.

We have been hearing for several days that Carnival in Panama is quite an event.  As I was writing our last post, Carnival began to sound like a winter storm in Michigan. The stores run out of supplies, there is no gas and traffic is at a standstill. Carnival starts officially today and ends on Tuesday night. That’s a 4 day party across the entire country. Many people here call it a drunk-fest and “no place for children”. You all can probably imagine the kind of Mardi Gras type stuff that will be going on. We understand that yesterday they turned all the lanes of the Trans American Highway to head out of the city for a period of time so that all the people could get to their weekend homes. The condo we are renting is owned by an American, but most in this building are owned by Panamanian people from Panama City who come here for vacation and weekends. It seems that the building is full now and the party here will be mild compared to elsewhere in the country. We are comparing it to our home on an inland lake in Michigan where a large percentage the properties are owned by non-residents. We only see them on the weekends and 4th of July. This week is like the 4th of July; they call it high season here.  The fireworks started on Thursday night. We think it must have been some kind of kickoff celebration.  Needless to say, we will be staying put here until Wednesday morning. We went out yesterday morning to pick up a few last minute supplies and driving here was like demolition derby/gridlock.

The main reason we went out yesterday was to go to our 1st meeting with our Spanish tutor, Jasmine. We were interested in learning more Spanish and Jasmine came highly recommended. Jasmine was all business, and our 1 hour session was packed full of important Spanish that we are to learn before next time. We are already finding it helpful, and are attempting to converse with one another as much in Spanish as possible. The Spanish here has a bit of its own Panama flare and most people here know a little English which gets mixed into conversation. The more we get away from the tourist area the less English speaking people we find. While we were out, we also filled the car with gas and picked up our passports from the courier. We found them stamped with our multiple entry designation. This will make customs easier, because we will be allowed to go through the line with residents. We can also enter and leave the country on a 1 way ticket. Tourists must have a return ticket when entering the country or they will not be allowed through customs at the airport or any check point at the border. Once a person gives up the tourist designation they are required to get a Panamanian drivers license. That process starts at the American Embassy in Panama City and ends at the local version of the Department of Motor Vehicles. We both have appointments at the American Embassy 1 week from Wednesday in the early morning so that we will hopefully complete the requirement and have our drivers licenses by the end of the day. The last stop of our excursion was to grab a few last minute supplies. We were literally scared to try to pull into the grocery store. The street out in front and the parking lot were gridlock. We ended up at the corner grocery by our condo. We have compared it to a 7-11, but by no stretch of the imagination is it a typical American curb store. We found it to have an ample supply of anything a person may need and fairly priced. We thought that the vegetables were even better there than the grocery store in town. We wanted to stop for lunch, however that stop was as equally frightening as the grocery store situation.

We have shared our research on the Fonda and even visited one earlier in the week. We learned that the translation for Fonda is food. These eating establishments intrigue us and we love to try them. There is one at the end of the street by our condo and it is our new favorite place to go. We can walk there and it is tasty, cheap and friendly. Our first experience with it was Wednesday. The offerings were Pollo Fritas (fried chicken) and Pollo Salsa (broiled chicken with Salsa). There was also some kind of boiled meat that we did not try, and Sopa (soup). The soup offering was Sopa de Costella (rib soup). We did not try it but others around were eating it and it looked good. All meals come with rice, beans, salad, and plaintain. Jen had the fried and I had the salsa chicken, we both had bottled water and our bill was $9.60.

After we took care of our groceries we walked down for lunch yesterday and had a similar experience. Jen again had the fried chicken and I had the Cinta Guisada (steak stewed). The steak was tender and delicious like swiss steak. We brought our own drinks and our bill was $7.50. Don’t let anyone tell you it is expensive to eat out here. You must be open to new experiences, and ready for adventure. We will try this place for breakfast soon, and let you all know how it goes.

We have been guilty of not taking many pictures. We wanted to share a couple of more photos on the roof. It is absolutely beautiful up there, and where we will be spending the majority of the next 4 days.


Our next Session with the Spanish tutor is Wednesday. Thursday we are planning to head to the Azarro Peninsula about 2-1/2 hours to the West and South. This will be our 1st official adventure excursion.

The most important thing we have learned is:  me gustaria el cuenta por favor (may I have the check please). That is the simple Spanish lesson for today.

que tengas un buen sabado!

Greg and Jen











We are Settling Into Our Condo at Coronado Bay


Since arriving in Panama we have been crazy busy. Saturday we were picked up by the car rental driver who took us to our condo in Coronado.  The process was painless. We completed the rental documents and paid for our car then the condo rental agent showed us where to park and took us to our condo. We have spectacular views out every room,  and the balcony is awesome. The housekeeper was finishing up and we chose to get out of her way. We went for a nice lunch and bought a few groceries. We found the grocery store convenient and adequate. Many American brands were available next to the local brands at a premium price. We chose as many local brands as possible. When we returned to the condo we were able to unpack and take care of the groceries. The day passed much too quickly and we didn’t get much time to explore the area. We were able to cook our own dinner and relax for the evening.

Sunday we drove back to Panama City. Driving here is generally a challenge for the most experienced driver. Needless to say, we were a bit nervous to take our first drive. It went off without a hitch. We learned of a great app for navigating Panama called Waze. We downloaded it onto Jen’s phone and it took us right back to the hotel for the night. We had to be at Sevicio Nationale de Imigracion in the city at 7:30 Monday morning to complete the Visa process. We finished up the day Sunday in the hotel with a pizza and enjoyed the Super Bowl on Fox Sports Vivo which broadcast in Spanish (no subtitles). This is another great argument for learning more Spanish.

We were told to expect to spent the entire day at Immigration. I cannot say enough about how awesome our attorney has been. She has been there every step of the way and made the process run smoothly. She had us out of Immigration by 10 AM. The application process is complete, however, they retain our passports for 2 days for the multiple entry visa.  The attorney will courier them to us on Wednesday.  Now it is a waiting game while immigration decides to approve or deny our application.  We have appointments at the American Embassy in 2 weeks to get our Panamanian drivers licenses. As a tourist you can drive on your American drivers license for 90 days. With the Visa process we are no longer considered tourist so it is important to also get our drivers license. The attorney is walking us through that process as well.


This was the prize for all the time we spent at Immigration.

With the Visa application process complete we were free to return to Coronado. Although it was stressful getting out of the city, the drive wasn’t bad.  We were back in Coronado in time for lunch and a little exploring around the complex. We walked out to the ocean (the tide was low), then down the beach to the west a ways. We decided to walk east on the beach this morning. Upon our return to the building we relaxed by the pool and met some great people. Our lack of Spanish skills doesn’t seem to matter as much here at the condo. We swam and soaked up some sun for most of the afternoon. The sun is strong here and a little goes a long way. We  are so happy to be able to cook our own meals and we finished up the day by having a great dinner. We went to sleep last night with all the windows open and enjoyed the sound of the crashing waves.

Today we plan to explore the immediate area a little more. This area is pretty expensive. The beach, tourists and expats drive the prices higher. Ultimately, this is not probably going to be where we would live. We still want to immerse ourselves into the culture more. It is an honor that all of you are following with us. Please send e-mail or make comments if you have questions that we can answer. As always, like and share so everyone can find us.

Buenos Dias,

Greg and Jen


Panama City Day 2

Our day started early at Servicio National de Immigration. We met our attorneys assistant, Mariana, who walked us through the process of “opening a ticket” for the process of obtaining our Pensionado Visa. We started in a line to get a number like that one at the Secretary of State or DMV. Once we had our number we had to wait our turn. There were a lot of people in this room. We didn’t take pictures inside, as the people here are very insistent that the respect in government offices is maintained. We dressed appropriately for conducting business with the government. Jen wore a dress with closed toe shoes and I wore dress slacks with a button shirt and dress shoes. This initial meeting is so that the government can review the documents that we carefully prepared on Thursday. Once satisfied with our documents they then open our ticket and the process  begins. Our Passports were stamped that this process is underway. This is what ultimately will allow us multiple entry into and out of Panama. This is important if we retire here so that we can travel in on a one way ticket. As a tourist, to come to Panama, you must have a return ticket. We then had to wait in another line to pay $5. The real work will be on Monday. We will lay out our Monday experience after it happens. Having been to Immigration and having had Mariana explain everything, we now know what to expect from this process. Monday will be the last day we have to spend in Panama City.

Panama Immigration Building

We will be going to our condo in Coronado Saturday and returning to Panama City on Sunday afternoon for our Monday meetings. We will, also be picking up our rental car. We are going to be brave and drive back on Sunday afternoon. As of now, we will leave the car at the hotel while we go to immigration. The short taxi ride will cost us less than parking at the Immigration Building. The drive back to Coronado is what scares us the most. Traffic out of the city is basically gridlock 24 hours per day. Once out of the city, it should not be a bad drive back to Coronado. This will be our biggest test.

Having completed out business for the day, we decided to explore in Panama City. Our research told us that the best place to discover in the city is Casco Viejo (Olde Town). It is the original site where Panama City was settled, and we found it charming but areas were depressed and run down. There are buildings everywhere being restored, and the restored portion of Casco Viejo reminded me of New Orleans. We wanted to take a tour, however the tours that interested us were limited to Thursday, Saturday, and Tuesday at 5 pm in the afternoon. We made our own tour and visited most of the things that interested us. Our first stop was a coffee shop at the American Trade Hotel.

By the way, taxi drivers will take you anywhere, but seldom know your destination. Be prepared to communicate a nearby landmark. We have been negotiating the price for our cab ride in advance and that has worked well even if the driver has a difficult time finding the destination. We have learned, for instance, that to get back to our hotel we have to tell the driver that it is near the Do It Center (hardware store) in El Dorado. There are very few street addresses to identify location. We got out of the taxi in front of the hotel, and after having coffee we walked back toward Cathedral Metropolitana and the Plaza de la Independencia. We were having a bit of trouble getting our bearings so we ducked into a small shop and bought a map. We were disappointed to find the Cathedral totally tarped for restoration. The Plaza was nice and surrounded by Museums for everything Panama. We may find some of those interesting on another visit when we have more time. We were in search of the famous organic chocolate shop, which we did not find.

We found a beautiful old church, which was not yet being restored, on the walk.

The walk was quite hot and we worked up an appetite and thirst so we went into a sidewalk bar that was very unique. We were seated at a table near the back in front of an open door/window. The breeze coming through was quite nice and we enjoyed a fresh seafood appetizer. We didn’t want to eat much, because our ultimate destination will be the seafood market. We noticed through that open window, a huge gate with a guard. We soon learned that the gate was the drive leading to the presidential palace. We asked if we could walk there and were told that this was as close as we could get without a guide and a prior reservation. Our table was actually inside the gate.

Our walk led us along the waterfront and down to the fish market. Based on what we had found in our research, this wasn’t completely what we expected. It was very interesting and there is no shortage of fresh seafood if you are hungry. We saw the seafood market, the harbor where the fishermen bring in their catch, and found the place where you can eat about any fresh catch. We enjoyed some fresh Ceveche and a cold beer before heading back to our hotel.

Gracias for following along. Please like and share if you find this all interesting. We are getting ready for our journey to Coronado. Please stay tuned for more.

Greg and Jen

We are on the ground and making our 1st update from Panama City

We left the United States early yesterday and arrived in Panama City late yesterday evening. It has always been our habit to fly non-stop when it is available. Our flight included a brief stop in Miami which made for a rather long travel day. The saving grace of the long day was that based on the way and time we made our reservation, it cost us barely any more to fly 1st class. Our Love 1st Classexperience in the 1st class cabin will make it hard to fly coach again. It really pays to pay attention to the details, and Jen is a master at that. Traveling 1st class allows each of us to take 2 pieces of  luggage weighing up to 70# each as well as a carry on and personal item. 1st class passengers also have great food and beverages all the way, including access to the Admirals club while waiting for the flight and on layovers. The moral to the story is that a very long travel day passed by quickly. This trip we were flying on American Airlines. American provided a very pleasant travel experience, so far. We will be sure to give an update once we get back home. Our good friends will be coming to Panama for a short visit while we are here. They will be traveling on Copa Airlines, which is based out of Panama. They have a non-stop from Chicago. We will try to also get feedback from their travel experience. We have found that travelling between the US and Panama can be expensive and have limited options. We are hoping to have a few of our new friends on the ground here, weigh in on the subject with tips and tricks they may have picked up to make the frequent travel between Panama and the US easier. Our flight from Miami to Panama last night provided us with some great views of the sunset in the clouds over the Gulf of Mexico.  We are sharing a picture we got through the window of the plane.Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

The next Issue of note is our hotel. We have committed to give honest and accurate review of our experiences. We chose the Central Park Hotel for it’s proximity to our immigration attorney and The Department of Immigration. We were also paying attention to the hotel reviews and cost. We were told to expect to spend up to 10 days in the city. That being said we made the reservation for 10 days. We got a junior suite. This is a 2 bedroom 2 bath suite with a kitchenette. There is a balcony and each room has air conditioning. The cost was just over $60 per day. The room is dated and not in great repair, but with all due respect, you get what you pay for. We are not disappointed. The pool is across the street and up 5 flights of stairs, so it is less than convenient. The problems we have had, however, have been quickly addressed. We are not sharing pictures, because you will not be impressed. We are looking forward to checking into our condo in Coronado on Saturday. Our condo is more than an hour outside the city so we will return to this hotel room on Sunday night for our meetings at immigration on Monday. We are hoping to  finish our business quickly so that we can check out of this hotel early and start exploring the country next week.

We have been impressed with the responsiveness of our immigration attorney. We have been hesitant to recommend her before our first actual meeting. We spent most of the morning with her and her assistant putting the documentation in order and being prepped for our initial visit to Immigration. We are pleased to tell you all that she is quickly proving her value to this process. Should you be considering establishing a Panamanian Visa we are highly recommending Mayra Lambolgia De Ruzzi, Attorney at law. We are happy to share  her contact information if you will message us or send an e-mail.

Communication continues to be a problem for us. We are going to make learning more Spanish a priority sooner rather than later. We have been to Taco Bell where we had a hard time ordering. We have also had two experiences with taxi drivers. The taxi experience has been good so far. Neither driver had much English, but we had someone else arrange the rides both times and had prearranged fares. This makes moving about the city stress free. The cabs here charge by zone not meter. Our ride to the attorneys office was $6 and the return was $5. We are still not sure that we will get brave enough to drive here in the city. It seems that using cabs is a great alternative. We have also been told that the bus system is cheap and easy.

Expect more frequent posts. We will report on our experience at immigration and perhaps a walking tour of Casco Viejo soon. Please, like and share our post. We also are interested in comments and suggestions.


Jen and Greg

Nervous Excitement Prevails

As the countdown to departure nears we are both nervous and excited to embark on the adventure of our lives. We have prepared well and fully expect to seamlessly emerge ourselves into  the culture of Panama. We are having a great time following the Expats in Panama Facebook page. The folks on the ground are continuously providing great advise and answering questions to make our adventure great. We highly recommend joining this group for anyone contemplating an adventure like ours. We have used the search feature on that group to get recommendations for our pending trip. We are hoping to connect with friends we have made on that site and will surely be following the advise we have gained through our connection there.

Next week we will be in Panama City where we are looking forward to taking a food tour. Panama is quickly becoming a foodie destination. We are looking at a tour that will take us to sample local Panamanian food and drinks that are considered off the charts. The tour starts with the worlds best coffee and organic chocolates. We will sip local craft beers and stroll to the seafood market where we will sample ceviche and finish the tour in Casco at a famous rooftop bar enjoying the view and local rum. This tour comes highly recommended. We hope to find some great places along the way to take in a full meal later in our Panama City stay. After a day in immigration this may be just what the doctor ordered.

We have been told that during our visa process we have to remain flexible.  All our sources tell us that nothing happens quickly so we are prepared to “roll with whatever”. Our immigration attorney has all the documentation and assures us that everything is in order. We are prepared to do anything necessary to get through the process quickly. We are hoping to wrap up our business in Panama City quickly so we can commence spending time on the beach in Coronado.  Once we get settled into our condo we will start exploring. Coronado is considered by many to be one of the best places for expats to settle. We are going to have an open mind, but think we want to be more immersed in the culture of the country. Our adventure will take us all over the country in search of what may turn out to be our new home.

The next time we post, we will have our boots on the ground. Our hope is that we can provide all of you with a taste of our adventure. Please, continue to follow along. We are committed to making several posts per week from Panama. Questions are encouraged and we love it when people comment and like our posts.  Take the opportunity now, if you haven’t, to sign up and receive our blog posts by e-mail. The link is at the bottom of the page. If this is your first time checking out our blog, please feel free to go back through the archives. That will give you a sense for how we got to this point.

Buenos Dias,

Greg and Jen


The Countdown Continues T -21 days to Departure

As we prepare to depart for our 9 week adventure in Panama our posts have been few and far between. Thanks for continuing to follow along. It seems like a great time to catch up and recap our preparation. Our immigration attorney has all but one document and we will be getting the apostle on Jen’s pension document and submit it on Friday. She officially retired at the end of the year, and since we have been going full blast on preparation for departure. We have confirmed our reservations for accommodations and rental car. We have also confirmed transportation in Panama City to meet with the attorney and complete the immigration process. Our first several days will be spent in Panama City where we will be staying at Central Park Hotel. We are waiting until we are on the ground in Panama to begin officially making recommendations. Central Park was among one of many places we chose from as a landing pad in Panama City. We chose it based on price and it’s reviews on the internet. It got mixed reviews…we will see how it works out. We take possession of the condo in Coronado on February 3, but it is a bit too far to commute into the city for completion of the visa process. We will also pick up our rent car on that day, but have a bit of anxiety driving in the city.

During our down time in Panama City Jen and I are planning a few adventures. We were intrigued on our previous visit to Panama with the Biodiversity Museum, and plan a visit there.

Bio-Diversity Institute Museum
Bio-Diversity Institue Museum

The Panama Museum of Biodiversity Puente de Vida (“Bridge of Life”) is a portal to the richest and most diverse ecosphere on earth. It was designed by internationally renowned architect, Frank Gehry. It is located at the end of the Amador Causeway in Panama City, facing the Pacific Ocean at the entrance of the Panama Canal. The museum inspires as it educates about biodiversity – a complex but essential vision of life that is both a leading-edge scientific theory and a tool to protect our most precious ecological resources.

We are also planning to visit many of the fine restaurants in the city. The World Travel Guide says we won’t go hungry in Panama City. The Central American hub is a rising culinary star, with a varied food scene including some fabulous North-American, Italian and Middle-Eastern options as well as plenty of Latin specialties. The restaurants favoring Panamanian-style cuisine are dominated by wonderfully fresh seafood. A number of elegant, gastronomic ventures can also be found here.

We are also planning to visit Old City Panama, which is also known as Casco Viejo (Spanish for Old Quarter), Casco Antiguo or San Felipe. Casco Viejo is the historic district of the city. It was settled in 1673 and built following the nearly total destruction of the original Panama City. Panama Viejo was destroyed by a pirate attack. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1997. We will likely take a walking tour of this vibrant and colorful neighborhood where restoration is fully under way. Restored modern restaurants and hotels lie side by side with incredible crumbling ruins of the old city. This neighborhood of Panama City offers great nightlife, ocean views and city bay views.

We are sure to find many other adventures while in Panama City. Stay dialed in to our blog for our first hand experiences.

Our Spanish lesson for today is Casco Viejo which is Spanish for old quarter. Also, Puente de Vida which is bridge of life. Yes, we are sneaking in the Spanish lessons every time we write.

Jen and I are humbled and honored by the way this blog is being received. Today we reached another milestone of 1500 visits to our site. That does not include all of you who are getting this by Facebook, Tumbler and the other social media outlets. Thank-you, again, for following. We remain excited about our upcoming visit to Panama.

The Visa Process: Plans for arrival at immigration!

Many of you have expressed interest in the immigration process. Upon delivery of the majority of documents and the second payment to our immigration attorney in Panama City, we received an email which we will share in part below. The documents had to be delivered in advance for review and translation to Spanish.

Dear ​Jennifer​ and Greg,

Below is the planned schedule for your visa application process.​ We will need you for a total of 7 working days​.

Note: The schedule does not take into account unforeseen events. You will have to remain flexible during the visa application process.

We will need you to bring with you:

1) Passports. Make sure your passports have more than 6 months before expiration and that they are not torn in any way.

2) Cash to pay for the immigration fees, our legal fees, and expenses.

3) Five “carnet” or “passport” size pictures. (Can be done in Panama)

​4) Original documents to present to immigration​


If you want to use private transportation, we can recommend reliable drivers.

(Here she recommends 7 drivers to deliver us to the meetings at her office and immigration.)



Please, download to your smart phone the “whatapp”.


1)  The 1​st ​day at 9:00 AM, I can see you in my office. We will fill out forms.

(Here she provides the address of her office along with her cell phone number and Google map to the office.

2) The next day early at ​7​:​15 AM you will meet with my assistant at the “Servicio Nacional de Migracion” in order to register you. The cost will be $5.00 each. From immigration you will go to the office.

(Here she provides the Google address link for Servicio Nacional de Migracion) The popular address is: Servicio Nacional de Migracion in Tumba Muerto next to the Excel dealer.

Please wear proper attire; No sandals, short pants or sleeveless blouses.

3) ​D​epending ​when​ all the documents are ready, we  will go to the “Servicio Nacional de Migracion” in order to apply for the visa. You will need to leave your passport in the office and $50.00 each to pay for the initial ID cards good for 6 months.

4)  The next morning, you will meet with my assistant at the Servicio Nacional de Migracion in order to get the initial immigration identification cards and the multiple entry visa. The cost will be $50.00 each. Immigration will retain your passport for 2 days, while they complete the multiple visa process. You will have an ID with you from immigration that you can use in Panama. We will return your passport back ASAP.

5) The balance of all the fees for visa bill will be due at this time. We will send you an invoice that is due before we return the passports to you with the multiple entry visas so you can travel out of Panama at will.

We will definitely be taking advantage of the private transportation that she recommends. Having spent a little time in Panama City in October, we know that traffic is a nightmare and the streets will have very few identification markers (no street signs). Her email above eluding to the common address next to the Excel Dealer leaves us laughing. We will have a rental car, but we do understand there is no room for error when reporting to immigration. The other thing notable in her email is the need for proper dress. The government offices in Panama command the respect of being properly dressed. What a novel idea. It is too bad that doesn’t go without saying. The people in Panama are very proud to dress properly when reporting to a government office. It is unfortunate that American people do not share that pride. We will keep you posted as to how this schedule plays out.
Panama Immigration Building

Today’s Spanish lesson will be helpful at immigration. Gracias por guiarnos a traves del proceso de inmigracion…translated means thank you for guiding us through the immigration process.

Gracias for continuing to follow this blog. Remember to check back often, like and share.