I got an email from a reader asking me about what he needs to do and bring for a 90 day stay trip. I thought the information I shared with him would also help many of you.
The information is good for a short 7 day recon or even a long 90 day stay.
AIRLINES — You will be flying into Panama City. Most of the major airlines fly there, and tickets average about $500 – $700 round trip. I know United does. If you fly United, I would recommend upgrading to Economy Plus. You have more room and bigger seats. For a flight that long, you will be glad you spent the little extra.
You want to try to arrive in PC in the early afternoon if you are able. This way you can catch a hop on Copa and fly to David. The cost is around $80 one way. If not, you might have to spend the night in PC and then catch the next flight out. I think there are 3 flights a day from PC to David.
When you arrive in David, I can meet you at the airport, just let me know.
WHERE TO STAY – If you do not have a place to stay, I have a nice quaint B&B / hotel that we stayed in when we visited here. Cost is reasonable and they have coffee and rolls, butter and jam for breakfast. Free wifi also. The Lacha Inn – http://lachahotel.com/
THINGS TO BRING / DO BEFORE COMING
CELL PHONE — get an Android smart phone with GMS FACTORY UNLOCKED INTERNATIONAL PHONE. Once you are here you can purchase sim card. Unlimited Internet and data is $14 per month and phone service is $5 per month.
You can find these on Amazon.
I STRESS — NOT JUST an UNLOCKED phone… It has to be a FACTORY GMS UNLOCKED INTERNATIONAL phone.
A Samsung Note is what I have and it is large enough to work on, surf the net, get email, ect.
IF you are going to be down here for some time, you may wish to open up a CREDIT UNION account and make that your main bank account. Banks are dangerous in the coming days ahead. At a Credit Union, your money is safer and fees are less. I would move all your money then to this account.
EMAIL — Get either a Yahoo or Gmail email account and make that your main email. If you have Hotmail, consider getting one of the others. Yahoo and Gmail have more storage room and other features that Hotmail does not have.
PAY PAL — Open up a PAY PAL account and get their ATM / Debt card. This is a great way to go and ATM fees are like a $1.00 to withdrawal, where many banks charge $10 – $25 to withdrawal from the ATM. Tie your Pay pal to your new Yahoo /Gmail account. A lot of us Expats use this to pay each other for goods and services this way also.
PASSPORT – You do have your passport right? If not,get that now. It will take several weeks for you to get it.
IMPORTANT PASSPORT NOTE… When you sign your passport, make sure that you can duplicate that signature every time. All banks and financial institutions will check your passport signature and if they do not match, you may not be able to open a checking account.
KINDLE — If you like reading, buy a kindle that has WIFI you can download movies, books, music ect. Get the 8.9 and 16 Gig. This way you can download movies and TV shows and watch them when you want. That is unless you speak Spanish and can watch Spanish TV. Trust me on this one.
CLOTHES — I wear cargo shorts everywhere, but we are coming into the rainy season and it is starting to get chilly. You may not think it is being from where you are, but we are already acclimated to the tropics and Boquete does get cold when it gets into the rainy season. So think pants and maybe a light coat.
SHIRTS — Buy a lot of ‘wick away” T shirts and polo shirts, Cotton will stick to you and even it being the rainy season it does get warm during the day before the rains move in. So humidly is on the high side till you get used to it. These shirts are a great investment. I wear them all the time and have stopped wearing cotton shirts almost entirely.
PANTS — jeans and dockers are what people wear. It is laid back and no one wears shirts and ties unless they are missionaries . That is how you can pick them out.
SHOES – My wife and I wear KEENS a lot. They are sandles made to trek around in the jungle and are worth every penny. They are truly built to last. I still have my first pair that I bought for Belize and they are still going strong. They cost around $90.00 and are a great investment. If you like to hike, getting some hiking boots are a good idea also.
As for toiletries, you can pretty much get anything down here.
TRAVEL HEALTH INSURANCE – Look into some sort of international catastrophic health insurance. You will only need coverage for about a month or so, then we can help you get on with one of the private hospitals down here. We did not have any when we moved to Costa Rica and Tracye needed her appendix out 4 days after arriving.
LAPTOP – get a good laptop and load it up with all the programs you regularly use. We are partial to HP computers. They can be repaired down here and they take a beating. Get a wireless LOGITEC headset also so that you can use your laptop as your phone and call the states and such. EVERYONE uses Skype down here. So the headset is a good thing to get. Oh, get a wireless mouse too, Logitec makes a great one and it is pretty cheap.
LUGGAGE — get some good luggage,preferably hardshell luggage vs the black canvas. You will do a lot of traveling living the expat life so you want good luggage that will last and keep your stuff safe. Traveler’s Choice makes a great 3 piece set for about $130. That is what both me and Tracye have. They have been to the states multiple times, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and they are still doing great. ALSO, what is good about these is that they fit within each other. So when you fly back to the states for a visit, you can put the medium inside your large one and then when you come back you will have a bag to mule stuff in that you want from the states.
COMPUTER BACKPACK – This is a must have. You will be lugging your computer everywhere. There is free wifi in a lot of restaurants and cafe’s. Also you will be doing a lot of traveling to places you want to visit and explore. I personally have a Samsonite Tectonic Large Backpack. This has been with me when I speak at conferences; it has traveled with me to Belize, Costa Rica and now here in Panama. I have literally abused this bag and it just keeps going. As you can see in the picture, I always keep it somewhat packed and ready to go. All I need to do is slip my laptop, kindle, a few other items like my tomahawk / survival knife in it and it is ready to go.
Some nice features is that some of the more critical zippers are ” self-healing”, and another thing is that there are nice back comfort pads all in the right places. The back pads also have channels so that if you are wearing it for a long time, your back still gets some ventilation.
This is one tough bag and I have worn out a few of my other back packs, but this one just keeps going. The quality is great and none of the seams have given out or torn. This has easily weighed at times, over 50 lbs when I had it stuffed full with just about everything I need. The zippers did not pop, and the strap seams held up even when I am swinging it up on my back fully loaded.
ONE Negative, is that there are so many zippered pockets and such that you will lose stuff in this backpack. Over the years I have learned to compartmentalize the back pack.
CAMERA – you want to record all your memories, so bring a good digital camera that acts as a camera and video camera. Tracye and I LOVE cannon. You have seen Tracye’s pictures and I use my camera all the time to do video work. We like the Cannon Powershot series and we have several different ones so that we always have a camera with us.
MONEY — when you bring money, bring only $20.00s. Some places will not take $100s or $50s. You can also use your ATM card down here and get US dollars, which is the currency that is used down here.
ITEMS I HAVE TALKED ABOUT
Kindle HDX Fire — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Kindle-Fire-HDX-8-9
GMS Unlocked International Phone — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Unlocked-GMS-Phone
Wick Away Polo Shirt — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Wick-Away-Polo-Shirt
Wick Away T Shirt — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Wick-Away-T-Shirt
Mens Cargo Shorts — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Mens-Cargo-Shorts
Keens Sandles – http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Keens-Sandals
HP Laptop Computer — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-HP-Laptop-Computer
Logitec Wireless Headset — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Logitec-headset
Logitec Wireless Mouse — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Logitec-Wireless-Mouse
Traveler’s Choice Hardshell Luggage – http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Hardshell-Luggage
Samsonite Computer Backpack – http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Samsonite-Computer-Backpack
Cannon Powershot ELPH 150 — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Cannon-Powershot-ELPH
Cannon Powershot 520 — http://tinyurl.com/PZ-Cannon-Powershot-52
This should get you going for a basic list.
Ladies – I did not recommend any clothes for you, but I do recommend trying to get the Wick Away shirts and such as well. They really do help and Tracye has several that she wears.
IF you have any recommendations on items to add to this list, please CONTACT US and let me know.