It is crazy. It takes weeks, money and nerves. Looking for a flat to live in the Panamanian capital is a struggle. Here are few tips how to deal with it and find a nice apartment in Panama City.
Panama is a country of WhatsApp
If you don’t have this application on your phone, you better download it because everybody is using it in Panama. You have it on billboards and company’s’ websites. Almost everybody is using it due to the high calling prices, when for 1GB internet package on your phone you pay 10-15$ per month. This is a way to contact hosts and agents, and do not bankrupt. Remember to add new numbers with +507 to have them immediately on your WhatsApp contact list!
Everything depends from the standard you are looking for. You could find something for free in one of the local ghettos, but it would be probably one way trip 🙂 Nice flats in skyscrapers with 3-4 rooms are around 2000 – 2500$ per month, furnished with utilities. Those are however for people that have no money limitations, and even than you have to wait usually at least 2 weeks, most likely 4 – 6. Such a swimming pool in a new building, 3 minutes of walking from Via Argentina and 10 from the metro station can be around 1000$ per month.
For people with a smaller budget like mine (up to 400$ per month for 2 people) it might be harder to find something.. livable. Prices for two people are usually higher because of the utilities, any room in a normal area could be find in the range of 300 – 500, however most will not have AC and will be either far from the metro station or will be dirty and small. Often it will be all: far, dirty and small. Best areas are near the Via Argentina where we can find most of the cheapest restaurants in Panama City and where is quite safe to walk even at night.
It can take time but it is worth it, a specially if you are a gringo with a limited Spanish proficiency, you definitely do not want to live in a bad district. It might cost you much more then this extra 50 – 100 $ per month. I can go now in the evening for a beer and come back walking in a couple of minutes. Not having nice places around and being scared to walk at night makes us using taxis and this is already a cost that could be avoided.
Such a living room, small bedroom with own bathroom, quite big kitchen with two fridges, two tarraces and together with us 8 people in this very big flat costs 400$. It is a good solution a specially for a start. It end up we live with Venezuelans and Colombians – two very nice nations 🙂
Is it clean in Panama?
A small problem with this flat (there is always something wrong right?) was that it was a little bit dirty. After what we have seen before for ~350$ thinking “what the hell are we doing in this country?!” it was the cleanest place in the area, probably in the country! But still we had spent a day cleaning our few square meters, killing couple of bugs including cockroaches and making it tight. We are not cleaning freaks, but in Latino America people do not really care about those things, and here you have to clean even more often due to the very high moisture. Dust does not just fly around, it sticks to everything so my fan is half black after one week of using it.
Where to look for a flat in Panama?
Mostly on one website: Encuentra 24 which almost everybody is using in Panama for flats, jobs, sales and others. You can also check on the Facebook group for internationals in Panama: Young Expats in Panama. They also organize nice meeting where you can meet nice people speaking English in this land of Spanish 🙂
We spent over a month in a hotel waiting for our flat. Latino people are not the most trustworthy people when it comes to deadlines and keeping a word. We should move in to a flat with such a nice view like on the photo, 26 floor, big bedroom and 400$! Too good to be true? Previous tenant should move out until Monday, when we got a message that she doesn’t have yet electricity in her new place. As it’s easy to guess everyday we heard “mañana” (tomorrow). We already paid for the first month so we ware also scared we can loose this money. After a week we demanded to have next month 100$ cheaper to cover our extra spending, after next week our host start paying us for the hotel. Today we live somewhere else, previous tenant still lives in her (our) room, and we got back only our rent, still trying to get hotel money from him. I won’t mention what costs we had for not having a kitchen and eating every day in restaurants.
- If you find a flat, pay immediately and take a key. Don’t say “we will contact tomorrow, please keep it for me”. They will agree and in 2 hours it will be taken (happened to me).
- Don’t save money by taking a bad district, it isn’t worth it. If you can, find a building with a reception (guard).
- Ask people – in your hotel, facebook, even a taxi driver, is your district safe. There are many places in Panama City where we shouldn’t be.
- There are buildings with swimming pools which are not necessary more expensive, I found 3 rooms with it for around 400$
- You can ask your host to make your contract legal by going to notary and paying 10-15$, however what will you do with it if something will happen, go to a court?
- Download WhatsApp and always add contact with +507
- Use Encuentra 24 and Young Expats in Panama to find offers.
Most important: do not give up! Panama City is beautiful and once you will solve those few problems like nice flat and nice job it is a great place to live with many things to do! 🙂