When you book a flight into another country, you have to show that you have a departing flight. So when we originally booked our flight here to Panama we gave ourselves 3 months to get everything we needed to do done. We told our attorney that we have flights booked for May 6th to go back to the States. She assured us that it is plenty of time to get all the legal things done that needed to be done to get our residency card and our multi-entry visa.
Our attorney is in Panama City and we are in Bocas del Toro, Panama. It is an 11 hour drive on the “chicken bus” to Almirante and then about an hour boat ride to Bocas or a quick 50 minute $130 (sometimes cheaper) flight from Albrook airport in Panama City to Bocas and vice versa. When we first arrived we stopped by our attorney’s office during our transit from the international airport to Albrook (luggage in tow) to give her the paperwork to get the process going. A quick Uber ride to Albrook airport and flew straight to Bocas. It was time to look at homes and see if it was truly going to be our paradise.
Three weeks later we had to make a round trip flight back to Panama City (the 2 of us RT was about $520) to open bank account (US banking laws make this a very difficult task and many banks won’t let US citizens open accounts). It took at least 2 full days in the city. With the account opened, we headed back to Bocas. With two of three steps toward residency done, we felt pretty good about the process.
Then we received an offer on our house in Florida. We switched our flights to the US from May 6th to May 1st so we would have time to pack everything up in time for closing. The airline had $200 penalty fee for each ticket and the fare difference to make the change, which put the cost just over $1000. We found two one way tickets on the same airline for half of that. So we now had 2 flights booked to go back to the States, May 1st and May 6th. Unfortunately, the buyer pulled their offer. We decided it was still better to go back on May 1st and deal with the things left in the house we weren’t going to sell.
We found a place to rent for seven months (see my last blog entry) and moved in April 16th. Having not heard from our attorney about our residency card and multi-entry visa we started getting worried. If we failed to get those done before we returned to the US, we would have to start the process all over again. Allan sent an email to our attorney on April 25th reminding her that we planed to leave May 1st. Her assistant emailed us back telling us that they JUST got word that our FBI reports have finally been cleared and we can now apply for the residency but it takes at least 5 full working days. Being the middle of the week we had a weekend, Panamanian Labor Day (May 1st), and the elections (May 5th). Even if we waited until the May 6th flight, there weren’t enough working days to make it happen.
We rebooked our flights AGAIN and booked a hotel in Panama City. We decided to build in some buffer by staying for 11 days. That turned out to be a good thing as a snafu in the paperwork pushed the process back another 2 days.
With the extra time in Panama City, I decide to find an orthopedic doctor to help me with pain in my knees (our first test with the Panama medical industry). Our attorney recommended a doctor that speaks English. During the visit, he asked many questions about my life. How active I am, where we live, what kind of house we are living in, etc. He was very thorough and spent a lot of time with us. He sent us to the hospital next door for xrays. We have international medical insurance but it has a fairly high deductible so we have to pay for everything out of pocket at first. Four xrays cost us $107. We returned to the doctors office and he had the xrays pulled up on his computer and had reviewed them (less than 10 minutes had passed). He told me that I have arthritis and the meniscus is getting thinner between the bones. He gave me a shot with 2 different medications in each knee (cortisone and a viscuous liquid to grease the joint). Given how cheap the xrays were, when the front desk clerk told us the price for the office visit and hearing “Mil,” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor. The visit with the shots was $1195. It was still cheaper than in the US but I was not expecting that. It took about a day and a half before my knees were feeling better but they do feel great and the shots worked very well and should last at least 6 months.
Spending 10 days in Panama City has been an adventure of its own. We visited Casco Veijo (Old Town) and I fell in love with this area. Built before there were cars, the streets are narrow and hilly. There are beautful churches, roof top restaurants and bars, breweries, and old homes all clumped together in this tight little town. It has some very beautiful views of the city.
Leading up to the election, there were several political rallys in the city. And many places closed as alcohol sales were not permitted from noon on May 4th until noon May 6th (Cinco de Mayo be damned). Thank God for our hotel restaurant and bar! Eating out here every day isn’t all that cheap either. Not to mention my poor liver….all in all, it’s a BIG process and it’s just about over…well, until next time….