Monday, November 18, 2019

Why Life in Panama City Keeps Getting Better

Since deciding to invest in a place in Panama City, Panama, Brooke and I have been asked endlessly why would we invest in a "THIRD WORLD" country. We have visited Panama City 3 times over the last 10 years and it is not at all what the people who have NEVER been believe it to be. The following article by Jessica Ramesch published in International Living Postcards details exactly what we have come to discover about Panama City.


Why Life in Panama City Keeps Getting Better
By Jessica Ramesch
Visit Panama City today and your jaw will likely drop. Even after 14 years living here, it's sometimes hard for me to believe I'm in Central America. This shining city on the Pacific offers every convenience and amenity I could possibly want. Unlimited entertainment and fitness activities. Excellent internet and cellphone service. You can play golf and tennis...attend the opera or rock concerts...and delivery services will bring you everything from electronics to wine and beer.

Panama City's skyline is undeniably impressive.
When I first landed in Panama City, however, things were a little different. Admittedly, the skyline was far more impressive than I'd imagined and the supermarkets were very well stocked—but there were definitely some challenges.
There were no decent malls, and no big furniture or home improvement stores. And, as a vegetarian, I had a hard time eating out. Even in Panama City, where there were plenty of good restaurants, they just weren't equipped to deal with special requests.
Finally, getting around could be a challenge. Though there were lots of taxi cabs and fares were cheap, the service was awful. Rush hour and rainy days were maddening. I'd grown up somewhere walkable and bikeable, with an excellent bus system. I missed that more than anything.
Today, life in Panama couldn't be more different.
Don't get me wrong. The things I've always loved about it—the people and the cultural activities, the quiet little beaches and mountain towns—are still very much in play. They're the reasons I've stayed so long. But I've also had the pleasure of watching this city become increasingly more progressive...
Now, our malls, specialty shops, and department stores run the gamut. I can buy brands I like from the U.S. and Europe, or I can take advantage of stylish, inexpensive products made in Panama or elsewhere in this region.
And as for dining out, this is one of Latin Americas top foodie destinations. I can find vegan or gluten-free options...ethnic cuisine from India, Russia, Thailand, and Lebanon...and the local markets offer an excellent variety of fish, fruit, vegetables, and more.
Best of all is the increased walkability. Every administration has done its part to make this city easier to get around and hence more attractive. The new Cinta Costera or coastal belt widened tired old Balboa Avenue and now we have a network of roads, walkways, bike paths, and recreation areas all along the Panama Bay.
Our two metro lines have helped reduce car sales and improve traffic. From 2014 to 2019, Mayor José Blandón prioritized public spaces and walkability. Popular areas with heavy foot-traffic got refurbished parks and wide new sidewalks.

Panama City's smooth walkways and bike paths make getting around a breeze.
I enjoy this city so much more now. I live just a seven-minute walk from a metro station, so I hardly use my car anymore. I can hop on a train and be in downtown El Cangrejo in 10 minutes, no matter what traffic's like. From there I can easily walk to a big El Rey supermarket and an upscale Metro drug store...several nice clothing and department stores...and more pubs, cafés, and restaurants than I can shake a stick at.
Take last Friday, for example. I took the metro to Via Argentina ($0.35) and, from there, walked to everything I needed:
  • I got my back adjusted at the Royal Center medical complex ($15).
  • I had a delicious quiche and salad at French café Petit Paris. (The price was $9, but I paid about $6. I frequently take advantage of weekly discounts at great restaurants.) 
  • I took a walk along the bay, enjoying the ocean breeze ($0).
  • I met up with a fun group of expats and Panamanians to watch the new Downton Abbey movie. (In English, with Spanish subtitles. Regular tickets were $6.25, resident retirees paid $3.25.)
So yes, there were challenges along the way, but life here just keeps getting better all the time.
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