Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!!


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Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!!

When we decided to make moving to Boquete, Panama a reality a few years ago, I didn’t know too much about the intricacies here. I knew it would be a lot different but you just don’t know what you don’t know.

Now that we’ve been here since the middle of 2019, I can tell you that we’ve learned a lot. There are still oddities that make us raise an eyebrow, but we have a much better hold on things nowadays.

That said, there are a number of tips that would have been helpful to have known beforehand rather than learning once we got here.

Because I’m such a nice guy, I don’t want you to have to stumble when you first get here. Whether you’re moving to Boquete or just visiting, I’m here to give you some valuable information that can save you time, money, or even just keep you from looking a little foolish while here.

I hope you’re ready for a wealth of information! This started as a small list but turned into something quite a bit bigger. So much so, that I decided to give you a table of contents in case you need it…

What to know about Taxis

Taxis are prevalent here in Boquete and easy to find. They’re also very inexpensive, which I love! Between living close to town, the beautiful weather, and the cheap taxis, we decided not to buy a car here.

Gringo tax

At some point, you’re bound to be screwed over by what’s been lovingly dubbed the “gringo tax” here. Essentially, you’re going to be paying more for goods and services than a local Panamanian would. Taxis are just one example.

Taxis here don’t use meters so you’re just hoping that they’re charging you what they should be. But it doesn’t always work that way.

For example, when we first moved here, we had found a cab driver who spoke pretty good English so we would call and use him for everything. After a few weeks, Faith started taking horseback riding lessons in Alto Boquete, which is about a 15-minute drive from our place.

Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!! - Faith Horseback Riding at the Boquete Equestrian Center
Faith doing some horseback riding back in February

Our cab driver would charge us $10 there and $10 to get back. We thought that was reasonable considering he would have to come to our place to get us and because we would schedule it ahead of time – there are generally small premiums for that.

All was well and good until he got sick and took a week off of work… so we called on another cabbie. He picked us up and dropped us off at the equestrian center and charged us $5! Huh. Go figure!

So this goes back to “you don’t know what you don’t know.” We were content with the $10 pricing because we didn’t know that it was expensive and it seemed reasonable to us. But we found out that he’d been ripping us off for probably a month or so. We don’t use him anymore.

Eventually, you start to get an idea of what a cab should cost to and from most places, but it does take time. And even when you do know, you’re probably still going to be getting the gringo tax appended to your total.

The best you can do is always, always ask what the cost of a cab will be to get to your destination beforehand… and don’t get in unless you’re ok with the answer. Otherwise, you’re at their mercy when they get you to your destination and tell you it’ll be $X for the ride.

“¿Cuanto cuesta?” should be one of your favorite phrases (it’s important for shopping as well). That means “how much does it cost” in Spanish. If you stop a taxi driver and need to go to the Boquete Sandwich Shop, you can say, “¿Cuánto cuesta ir al Boquete Sandwich Shop?” The fun part is understanding what they tell you back. Figure that out with your fingers as numbers if you need to and you’re golden!

You might still pay the gringo tax but until you get a feel for the area, just be sure you’re content with the price.

Gather phone numbers

One of the best tips I ever received was to start gathering contact numbers of taxi drivers you like. Whether it’s because they speak English (if you don’t speak Spanish) or you just trust them more, you then have resources to use when you need them.

Be aware that everyone here uses WhatsApp for messaging (more on that shortly) so you’ll want to download and install that app. Then just start asking cabbies for their WhatsApp and add them to your contacts.

You can then text them and ask if they’re available when you need a ride. Since moving to Boquete, I probably have about a dozen or so taxi drivers both here and in David that I contact as needed. It’s been extremely helpful – especially if you need a ride originating from the place you’re staying.

Other taxi notes

Be aware that there are also shared taxis. The prices are much cheaper but you’ll be sharing a ride with others and you might be making stops along the way. I don’t believe that they’re currently doing these because of the pandemic, but it’s still something to bear in mind.

Also, taxis in Boquete shut down in the evening. Trying to find a cab after 7 pm here is pretty unlikely so plan accordingly or be ready to walk.

Finally, right before the pandemic started, Uber began service in David. This can make life a little easier since the app handles both your starting location and planned destination. Additionally, your cost is known beforehand. That definitely eliminates a lot of the language barrier.

However, that’s in David (about 45 minutes away from Boquete) and Uber shut it down during the COVID fun. Once that gets back online, you may want to consider it for rides while in David or getting back to Boquete. Additionally, although the service is not technically in Boquete, you might find a stray Uber driver around that can get you wherever you need to go.

Download some useful apps

Having the right apps on your phone can be very important for visiting or moving to Boquete. Here are some good ones to start with…

WhatsApp

This is a messaging app that almost the entire world lives on except for the U.S. You’ll want to install this so you’re on the same page. You’ll link it to your phone number and it doesn’t matter if your number is U.S., Canadian, Panamanian, etc. Since it uses data for phone calls, texting, and video chatting, the number is just an identifier – no cost for any of it except the data plan or Internet service you’re using.

Google Translate

If you don’t speak Spanish fluently, you want this app installed. Not only that, but you have the option to download languages to use offline. English or your native language should already be set to be offline, but be sure to do the same for Spanish. Then you’ll be able to use it even without an Internet connection.

As a bonus, you’ll find an option for “Tap to Translate” in the settings of the app (on Android at least). Turn this on and whenever you copy text anywhere, you can then press the button to see it translated and can even then do a new translation. This is so handy when having a conversation over WhatsApp with someone you are communicating with who speaks Spanish.

Google Tap to Translate

Google Maps

You’re likely already familiar with Google Maps. Great for directions and finding what’s out there including some of the fantastic restaurants in Boquete. My suggestion is to take it a step further and download an offline map of the area so it’ll work regardless of whether you have a signal or not.

On another note, Waze does work here in Boquete for directions as well. The only downside is that it doesn’t have an option to download map data for offline usage.

Weather apps

Good luck with weather apps here. They don’t work well in Boquete because of all the micro-climates here. It can be sunny as all get-out in one spot and down-pouring just a few minutes away or windy in one place and calm in another.

So forget using weather apps for the temperature or forecasting abilities. However, I have found one good use for them – the radar function. That can at least give you a better idea of when to expect rain or for how long. I use The Weather Channel app but use whichever app works best for you.

Earthquake Network

If you’re visiting or moving to Boquete, you stand a good chance of having an earthquake be a part of your time here. The good news is that they’re usually not very strong. Most of the ones we’ve experienced have been small effects by quakes in Costa Rica or down by David.

That said, I’d like a little notice if possible on when they’re about to happen (even if it’s just a few seconds) or to confirm if we just felt one. After testing several of them, I’ve found the Earthquake Network app to be the most reliable and flexible. It can sound an alarm for quakes based on your location and the magnitudes you want to be alerted on.

Additionally, it can use your phone while plugged in and charging to help determine if there’s an earthquake. It utilizes the accelerometer in your phone to determine quakes and can crowd-source the data to help everyone get a few extra seconds of notice when possible.

Get things done early in the day

Here’s the deal, Boquete, Panama is up in the mountains with lush rainforests as a part of the surrounding area… it’s gonna rain. In fact, you should anticipate it raining almost daily during the rainy season (May through November).

The good thing though is it’s almost like a scheduled rain most of the time. It generally rains later in the afternoon and usually no more than a few hours.

That’s a good thing because you’re able to plan your day accordingly. Line up your day to have fun and get your chores like shopping done by early afternoon. Then, after the rain stops, you can head back out for dinner or drinks at one of the great restaurants around here.

It won’t always match up that way, but if you keep this in mind, you won’t make the mistake of lining up a zip-lining trip at 3 pm only to be disappointed that it gets canceled because it’s pouring out!

Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!! - Trick-or-Treating in the rain
Ok, sometimes you gotta accept a little rain… like trick-or-treating in the late afternoon!

Carry the right stuff!

There are a few small details to be aware of if you’re visiting or moving to Boquete. I already mentioned the rain, but there are also some fun bugs and the big old ball of fire we call the sun to be concerned about.

Wait a second, Jim – I thought it was 75 degrees Fahrenheit every day in Boquete? Why do I have to worry about the sun?

Yeah, I thought that same thing, but I still kept getting burnt every time we’d go hiking… so what gives?

It’s actually pretty obvious but I didn’t think about it until my first dermatologist appointment here. She reminded me that Boquete is near the equator and high up in the mountains – roughly 3,900 feet above sea level. The higher up you are, the closer you are to the sun. That means that the UV rays are more powerful here so you need to be prepared even more so than if you were in David where the temperatures are usually in the 90’s.

My dermatologist recommended wearing sunblock anytime you’re outside between 10 am and 2 pm. I get it, but I also don’t follow that to the letter. However, if I know we’re going to be out in the sun for an hour or more, then yes, I’m slathering up my big Italian nose and ears along with the back of my neck.

And if you’re planning on going hiking or walking around near grassy or wet areas, you’ll want to have some bug spray, too. There aren’t a ton of different kinds of biting insects up here in the cooler climate of Boquete, but the one that seems to chew our family up are no-see-ums. These insects are so tiny (about the size of a pencil tip) but leave you with a bite that’ll have you itching for a week or more!

We had a fun time trying to figure out how to ward them off, too. A lot of people swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft so try it and see if that works for you. But that doesn’t seem to work for me. The only thing I found that’s effective for me is REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. And, as the icing on the cake, it’s also DEET-free.

Oh, and for some reason, this little Bug Bite Thing Suction Tool has been wonderful for helping with existing bug bites. I would never have thought it would work, but we now use it all the time and it’s cheap. Order it – you want this.

So what does all this mean to you? Always carry the stuff you need – umbrellas, bug spray, and sunblock. Heck, we even carry a deck of cards for the times when we’re sitting around waiting for service somewhere.

I like to keep everything in a cinch sack just because it’s easy (and it shows off the Route to Retire logo!).

Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!! - Route to Retire Cinch Sack
Ready to go at a moment’s notice! Course, this one’s looking a little ragged after so many uses… might be time to swap it out!

We usually also throw in long sleeve shirts if we’re going to be out past dark when it gets a little cooler. Plus, we’ll toss in some empty canvas grocery bags if we’ll be stopping by a store to pick up a few things since they don’t give you bags anymore.

When moving to Boquete, always rent first

Obviously, this won’t apply if you’re just visiting, but if you’re considering moving to Boquete, don’t just jump in and buy a place. I’ve heard horror stories of people that buy a place here without spending time a good amount of time here beforehand only to regret it later.

There are too many variables when buying in another country, especially in a place like Boquete where the weather can be so different throughout because of the micro-climates. Then there are big differences in the neighborhoods. On top of it, access to some areas can only be made with four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles.

And here’s the big problem – it’s easy to buy here but not always easy to sell. Just because you find what you think is a deal doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sell it later for the same or a better price – or even at all.

The real estate market is very different here than what you’re probably used to. So if you’re planning to buy – or even to rent for the long-term – start with renting short-term first. This will give you time to explore and understand the areas better before committing big time.

Even though we’re renting, we did exactly that. We rented a place for a month on HomeAway (now Vrbo) and then found the condo we’re now in during that time.

Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!! - Walking up to Valle Escondido
Walking back home to Valle Escondido after some grocery shopping in town…

Hopefully, you caught our appearance on House Hunters International, too!

If you’re planning on buying or building, I’d suggest a longer time of renting first – at least 6 months. What if you get here in this country and everything you thought you were going to love… you start to hate after a while? Be smart when moving to Boquete and start with renting for the short-term.

If you’re moving to Boquete, consider learning Spanish

It might be overkill to learn Spanish just for a visit. However, if you’re pulling the trigger and moving to Boquete, it’s definitely something to think about.

You don’t need to be fluent, but the more Spanish you know, the easier it will be to get things done here. That and you’ll feel more comfortable when talking to Panamanians at grocery stores, restaurants, etc.

I’m not going to go into this more because I already wrote a whole post on this subject just for you… Do You Need to Speak Spanish Living in Panama?

Use a VPN, people!

You get to Boquete and decide to fire up your trusty Amazon Fire TV Stick only to find out that you can’t watch most shows or movies you want because you’re not in your home country.

Or you’re just browsing the web and can’t log into certain sites and can’t figure out why.

I’ll tell you why – it’s easy to tell what country your computer is in while on the Internet. And for security or legal reasons, companies block outside countries from accessing their sites. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Crackle, etc. have to block countries as well because of agreements with production companies…

Visiting or Moving to Boquete? Here Are My Top Tips - Crackle
Nobody likes seeing messages like this!

That presents a problem, right?

Not for you though because I’m here to tell you that a VPN will encrypt and tunnel all your traffic to the endpoint you want. In other words, you can toggle the VPN on and suddenly your computer is essentially in the United States… or Canada… or wherever you want it to be in the world.

Suddenly you’re good to go… like magic!

NordVPN – the VPN for awesome folks moving to Boquete!

I purchased a multi-year subscription from NordVPN and love it. We have it installed on the Amazon Fire Stick and all our phones and computers. Here’s some more information on our setup since we’ve been here… Solving the World’s Problems… Starting with Mine!

I’ve written about NordVPN before (How We Use a VPN for Streaming & More While Abroad). I honestly think this is something that everyone should be using for privacy regardless of whether or not you’re hoping to watch Netflix or other streaming services while abroad.

I do earn a small commission if you use my link to NordVPN. I bought my subscription outright and then decided it was valuable enough to you as loyal readers to start an affiliate relationship with the company.

And if you jump on it now, they’re offering an unbelievable 2-year deal at 68% off. PLUS, you’ll receive extra subscription time for free! It’s a random gift after checkout and will get you either a free month, year, or 2-years in addition to what you bought. Now that’s a great deal!

It’s very inexpensive and a worthwhile investment for anyone who cares about privacy or wants to be able to access streaming services while in other countries.

Joining the online expat groups can be huge if moving to Boquete

Moving to Boquete, Panama is a huge decision in life. Depending on your plans, you’re possibly selling everything you own or moving a lot of it to a new country to spend your life… that’s not easy. It’s not just moving down the street or even to another state – you’re moving to a foreign country.

That said, you’re going to need a little help along the way. Maybe you have questions regarding what to expect or help in finding things once you’re here. Regardless, it would be good to know there’s a community around happy to give you a hand.

As much as I loathe Facebook, I have to admit that the expat groups on the site are a lifesaver. Whether trying to find a great dentist, a trustworthy immigration lawyer, a rock-solid dermatologist, or if you’re just wondering where to buy something specific in town, the Facebook groups have you covered.

Not only that, but they’re a fantastic source of information and news here. Although I continue to do better learning Spanish every day, I’m not fluent enough to watch the news here to know what’s going on. But these groups have been a great way to keep up and know exactly what’s going here – especially during the confusion of the pandemic.

On the flip-side, they’re an opportunity for you to share what you know as well. Every single expat here is in the same boat – they’ve come from another country and have had to learn the ropes. And because of that, there’s a sort of camaraderie and bond between all of us. As you new learn things, this becomes your chance to help others as well.

My two go-to groups are:

However, the other expat groups can be just as valuable (sometimes even more!). Here are some of the others that I’m a part of:

If you’re moving to Boquete and don’t have a Facebook account, create one even if it’s solely for these groups. As a side note, these aren’t the only expat groups, just the ones I’m a part of.

Recently, I also joined some other expat groups on Groups.io. These are a little more specific with topics or who can join, but I’ve found them to be extremely helpful as well. Here are the few that I’m a member of:

  • BoqueteTalks – this is similar to the Facebook groups with posts about Boquete
  • PanamaLawsForExpats – this is specific to legal topics in Panama
  • VEcinos – this group is only for folks who live in Valle Escondido

As an important note, you’ll probably want to change your settings on any group you become a part of on Groups.io. The default is to send you an email notification every time someone posts something or updates a topic. It’s insane and will fill up your inbox very quickly. Changing them to daily digest means that now I wake up every morning with one email from each group letting me know what kind of new stuff got posted… much better!

Open up your mind to new people and activities

Ok, you made it here… now what? Well, that my friends is completely up to you!

If you have a list of things to fill your every day, go for it! If you want to just sit back, read books on a hammock, and stare out at nature all day, by all means, enjoy!

But if you’re visiting or moving to Boquete to meet new people and do some new things, you’re also in the right place!

Earlier, I mentioned that every expat here has been in the same boat as you – they were completely new in this foreign country at one point and had to figure things out. That bond has been the start of many life-long friendships here and can help you create some of the same.

It’s not hard to find like-minded folks here who have a lot of the same interests you do. The key is to get out and meet some of these people – scary, right? Not really because even if you just show up at places here, other folks just love to introduce themselves to you. See, they’re taking the hard part out of things!

You can find and meet people all over the place here. Here are some random ones…

  • Pickleball groups (I still need to try out this sport!)
  • Writing clubs
  • Bird-watching groups
  • Group hikes (my favorite!)
Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!! - Posing while on a hike
Not too shabby of a background for a hike, right?!

There are also newbie expats meetings at local bars and social get-togethers. I’ve been stopped in grocery stores, the gym, and just walking around where I’ve met a ton of people.

And once you meet people, make sure to trade WhatsApp numbers so you can touch base with them later. Maybe you’ll want to go out for coffee, a beer, lunch, play some golf, or whatever.

There are a ton of other fun things to do here, too:

  • Zip-lining
  • Beaches
  • Whale-watching
  • Horseback riding
  • Shopping
  • Trying out different restaurants
  • Just walking around town
  • Golfing
  • White water rafting
  • Coffee tours
  • Gardening
  • Tennis / Racquetball

I could go on and on but it’s up to you to try different things and find out what you like! Meet new people and try new things and you’re all but guaranteed to be one happy expat!

If visiting or moving to Boquete, plan on realizing the “mañana” way of life

Here comes the fun one… have you heard of the “mañana” way of life here?

Well, if you haven’t, you need to be aware of it. Things go at a slower pace here. “Mañana” means “tomorrow” in Spanish… though in a lot of cases it tends to be “yeah, whenever we get to it.”

If you’re coming from a busy, hustle-bustle type of lifestyle, this is going to be an adjustment for you. And it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m sure I’ll love that!” until you actually see that it can be very frustrating at times as well.

I’ll give you an example…

We just decided to change Internet providers at our place. There’s actually competition here (unlike the U.S.!) so we’re switching to a new and better plan. The old provider was giving us 50 Mbps for $37/month. The new provider is offering 300 Mbps for $42/month. As a side note, I didn’t need this much, but you can get 1 Gbps speeds here as well (depending on your location)!

The new provider was supposed to get it installed here on Friday, 10/30. Outside of this, there was some confusion and our old service accidentally got cut off that day. So what do you suppose happened?

Yeah, the new provider never showed up. Funny enough, they still haven’t shown up as I’m typing this. It’s now Friday, 11/6 and we haven’t had legitimate Internet here in over a week – I feel like a caveman!

We’ve been working off our phones and hot-spotting to our laptops for 8 days now. It ain’t pretty (especially for Faith’s homeschooling), but we’re making do. It is what it is.

And that’s my point, I’ve been following up almost daily to try to get someone over here but it’ll happen when it happens. Luckily, they called this morning to say that a technician should be here tomorrow afternoon. Will they show up? Maybe… or maybe not. But that’s the way it goes.

Relax… don’t get stressed out by the mañana attitude. Things won’t always work out as planned – roll with it. We just laugh at these sorts of things because what else are you going to do? Hopefully, we have full Internet by the time you’re reading this!

Avoid foreign banking fees

They getcha comin’ and they getcha goin’! Fees stink – here’s how to avoid ’em.

If you’re just visiting, I wouldn’t change too much of what you’re doing. Some places accept credit cards here and some don’t. If you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you’re golden. We’re currently using these cards that don’t carry foreign transaction fees:

They all help us earn travel rewards without killing us in stupid fees along the way. You can see a list of my recommended credit cards on my aptly-named page, Recommended Credit Cards.

Airplane window
Checking out the sunrise on our flight to Panama recently… free thanks to credit card rewards!

Cards without foreign transaction fees are very helpful for any traveler.

Regardless of whether you’re visiting or moving to Boquete, be aware that ATM’s here are a double-edged sword. They’re convenient and you’ll find them everywhere. Plus, they spit out $20 bills (USD) so no currency conversions to worry about (if your money’s coming from U.S. Banks).

However, they charge about $5.25 for each transaction. Not too bad you say? Well, they’ve recently cut the limit down from $500 per transaction to $250 for foreign cards. That means if you want to get $1,000 out, for example, it’ll cost you $21 in ATM fees! PLUS, your card might charge fees of their own… ugh!

Here are my recommendations… either open a Panamanian bank account or a Schwab checking account.

Panamanian bank account

If you’re staying for the long haul, a Panamanian bank account can make sense though it’s not that easy to open an account. They require a bank referral letter, past tax returns, minimum balances, etc.

The good news is that once it’s done, it’s done. You’re now good-to-go here in Boquete. And you’re going to be earning a lot more interest than you would be in the U.S. on your money. The bad news is that it’s not FDIC insured so if the bank folds, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back. Keep that in mind and don’t stash money you can’t afford to lose in your account.

It’s also nice to have a Panamanian bank account to pay other things here out of convenience. For example, my landlord only accepts cash or an ACH transfer into her Panamanian bank account. If I were to do a transfer from my U.S. bank, it would cost us a pretty penny every month!

Schwab checking account

The other option is to open a checking account at Schwab – specifically the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account. Although it isn’t much of a high-yield account like the name implies, they don’t charge you any foreign transaction fees and automatically reimburse you on all ATM fees.

So my example before on the $1,000? You’d pay no fees from Schwab but you would still be charged the $21 in ATM fees from the local bank here. However, at the end of your statement, you’d see that they reimbursed you for that $21. Awesome, right? And because your card is also a VISA debit card with no foreign transaction fees, you can also use it to pay at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. that accept credit cards.

Sticking with that example of the $1,000… our rent is a little more than that. Because we don’t have a bank account here in Panama, I pull the cash from my Schwab account out of the ATM each month. With the new $250 limit per transaction, it now takes more time at the ATM but doesn’t cost me anything. And then my landlord gets one heckuva lot of $20 bills for her rent payment!

I’m moving to Boquete and I want my Amazon packages!

Yeah, yeah, I know – everyone loves their Amazon deliveries.

I have good and bad news for you. The bad news is that there are no addresses here in Panama, mail delivery here doesn’t exist without a P.O. box, and mail delivery is completely slow and unreliable.

Ouch.

That said, there’s some good news as well. Not many people (expats at least) use the local mail system here because of how bad its reputation is. And nobody at all receives actual mail to their houses – that’s just not how things are done here.

I do use a virtual mailbox called Anytime Mailbox to still get the U.S. mail I need. It shows up electronically and I can log in online, delete it, ask them to scan it, save it, shred it, forward the actual mail to a real address, etc. It’s wonderful. There are a ton of different options though if that one doesn’t suit your needs.

But that’s only for letters and whatnot. We still gotta get to Amazon and other shipments – what happened to that good news you promised, Jim?!

Simmer down, my friend – here’s the scoop. There are multiple mail-forwarding services here in Boquete to suit your needs. Most of them work like this:

  1. You register and get a mailing address to use in the U.S. (usually in Florida).
  2. When you order from Amazon, Walmart, Target, or wherever, you use that address you received in the exact format the forwarder gave you as your shipping address. Some of the services also have you send them an email with the tracking number you get.
  3. Your package ships to that location in the U.S. At that point, the retailer is now done with their job – in their eyes, you’ve now received your package. Now the mail-forwarding company does their job and ships your package to Panama City which then makes its way to Boquete. This additional shipment time from their location in Florida or wherever to Boquete usually takes 5-10 days.
  4. Once it’s at the local shop in Boquete, they notify you and you go pick it up. That’s when you pay the shipping.

So yes, you can get your Amazon (and other) packages. It takes a little extra time though and it ain’t cheap. Most places list their prices you pay by either size, weight, or both.

Here are just a few of the more popular mail forwarding services in Boquete:

  • Mail Boxes Etc. – Yup, the chain you’ve likely already heard of before. They’re probably the priciest but they’re reliable and they even have an app so you can track the status of your shipment. I used them to ship a couple of things here, including a computer, and they were very reliable.
  • eShop Boquete – People tend to love this place. I bet I hear more loyalty regarding this company than any of the others out there.
  • Servitechnics Courier – This is who I use now. They seem to have the cheapest rates by a long shot. That said, it’s not a very elaborate system – you don’t even create an account. You just email them your tracking number and they let you know when it’s there… that’s it. Love ’em – small operation but very good.

Just to give you a very rough ballpark, you can expect to pay about $5 or so per pound. In other words, it ain’t cheap so you just use it when you really need it.

As a favor to you, I’ll tell you that you should probably never give your forwarding address to family or friends. If they ever want to send you a care package, you’ll be stuck footing the bill! Don’t worry, we keep our address to ourselves!

Moving to Boquete and keeping your U.S. phone number

Probably one of the most asked topics I hear about is how to keep your U.S. phone number once you leave and move to Panama. I know of three options that you can do to accomplish this…

1) Port your number over to a service like Magicjack.

The initial idea behind Magicjack was that you can move your phone number to anywhere in the world. With an adapter you’d plug into your modem, you can then connect a regular home phone to it and then make and receive calls over your Internet connection.

They now let you install an app on your cell phone so calls can ring on both your home phone and cell phone. So you can use their app to make and receive phone calls or text using your phone number that you’ve ported over.

The beauty of it is that it’s inexpensive. You pay $50-60 for the first year with yearly renewals being $39 (or cheaper if you do multi-year). You can’t get much cheaper than that, right?!

There are some downsides though. The first is that the cost is great if you just need it for a home phone. However, if you’re planning this to be used for your cell phone, you still need to have service in Panama. Sure you can make and receive calls while at your new home in Boquete on WiFi, but what about when you’re out and about? So you need to get monthly service here and get a Panamanian SIM card.

The other concern I have is that the reviews on the app (at least for Android) aren’t stellar. It seems to be buggy with people complaining of missed calls and calls breaking up. That’s a big turnoff for me.

2) Move your service to a provider that covers you internationally like Google Fi.

The advantage of this strategy is that you don’t have to do anything else. When you fly into Panama, you’re ready to go. When you fly back to the U.S., you’re still good to go. You just do everything like you normally would – no SIM card needed in Panama or swapping service again. I love simplicity!

There are a couple of minor disadvantages to this method though. The first is that you need to have a phone that’s compatible with their service. They’ve opened this up tremendously now though so you stand a good chance of your current phone working with it.

The second is that it’s a little pricey but only compared to other options. As I write this, the cost is $20 for one line and $10 for each gigabyte of data. So you’re looking at a minimum of $30 per month (plus taxes and fees) and that’s assuming you don’t need more than a GB of data. Plus, that doesn’t cover you making phone calls to phone numbers in Panama that don’t use WhatsApp (usually businesses). The good news is that’s only 1 cent per minute.

So the price really isn’t too bad, especially considering you don’t need to do anything special when you get to Panama. It’s just not as inexpensive as Google Voice.

3) Port your number over to Google Voice.

This is somewhat similar to Magicjack but it seems to work a whole lot better. It’s also exactly what I did for our service before we moved to Boquete. I ported our numbers over to Google Voice and now we make and receive phone calls on our U.S. number seamlessly with family and friends. It’s great because it just works.

It works so well that I wrote an entire post on how to make this happen – Using Google Voice to Stay in Touch While Living Abroad. It’s been and continues to be one of my most popular posts.

So I’m not going to re-hash the details. If you’re interested, check out the article and start using Google Voice for your communication both in the U.S. and in Panama.

The Panama Relocation Guide – the ultimate resource for anyone moving to Boquete

If you’re serious about moving to Boquete or anywhere in Panama, I can’t tell you how invaluable you’ll find the Panama Relocation Guide. This is something that Jackie Lange from Panama Relocation Tours has put together over her years of taking busloads of people across the country who are considering moving here.

She’s learned so much about what people are looking for through these tours and she’s made all the right connections along the way. The guide she’s created provides some of the best information you can have to feel more confident in your planned transition.

Here are just some of the things you’ll find in this bible of sorts:

  • The best residency Visa options
  • Exclusive immigration attorney contacts with special pricing
  • The best places to live in Panama – based on your lifestyle preference
  • Getting your pets to Panama
  • Saving 40-50% on health insurance
  • Tips for finding a rental property and what to watch out for
  • Buying real estate in Panama and how to get financing
  • How to buy a car in Panama and how to use public transportation
  • How to get mail in Panama including Amazon orders
  • International mover contacts for household goods and cars
  • The best cell phone company to use in Panama and essential apps for expats
  • Bi-lingual and international schools available throughout the country

I’m not going to tell you that it’s cheap, but if you’re considering moving to Boquete, this is one investment you’ll be glad you made! You can get the Panama Relocation Guide here.

Buy your friend Jim a beer when you’re here!

Ok, maybe this one isn’t critical, but I do like beer so it was worth a shot! Maybe you’ve been just sucking in all this information and didn’t realize I slipped this one in.

Hopefully, you mindlessly show up and buy me a beer! 😉

Atlas Beer
It’s cheap, but it’s still just fine in my book!

Eh, even if you don’t want to buy me a beer but see me walking around, be sure to say, “hi!” It’ll be great to meet you!


I hope you’ve found this long post worthwhile… I can’t believe it dragged on this much! But I trust you’ll find the information helpful. Whether you’re moving to Boquete or just planning to visit, knowledge is power and helps keep the anxiety down.

Best of luck on your trip – we’d love to have you visit our little slice of paradise in the world!

Are you planning on visiting or moving to Boquete? Did you find these tips helpful?

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

18 thoughts on “Moving to Boquete or Visiting? The Ultimate List of Tips!!”

  1. Hola Jim, we took our first shared taxi 2 days ago here in Boquete. It was actually a large white van. There were 8 passengers & we were the first to exit. From the park to our driveway 1 mile up Volcancito Rd cost $2! Everyone wore masks & we immediately washed our hands. Some taxis charged us the $3 gringo price. We bought a car yesterday so problem solved with that. So shared taxis are back in business. Thanx for all the great info in this posting. We bought Jackie’s Panama Relocation Guide & it’s our Bible to life in Panama with so many valuable resources. She’s restarting her usual bus tours soon but she now offers private tours too & friends advised the private tours have been wonderful.

    1. Thanks for the update on the shared taxies, Debbie! Glad to hear that everyone was wearing masks.

      I’m also glad to know that Jackie’s guide has proven useful to you guys. I didn’t realize she’s now doing private tours as well so that some good info!

      It sounds like you’re settling in well – looking forward to seeing you guys out and about again soon!

  2. Lots of good tips here.
    Interesting about the UV radiation. It makes sense when you think about it.
    I have the same problem in Thailand, to a lesser degree. But it’s hot there so we usually remember to put on the sunscreen. It’s harder to remember if the temperature is 75 degrees.
    Hope you get the internet back soon. I don’t know how well I’d be able to adjust to the banana lifestyle. I’m so impatient when it comes to services. If I’m paying, they can at least be on time.

    1. It does make it harder to remember to put on sunblock with the milder temp here. The good news is that there’s usually some good cloud cover so it doesn’t usually hit you too bad unless you’re out for a while.

      Haha, I get it on the impatience. I was that same way before coming here but I knew what we were getting into moving here so I made a commitment to myself to try to just let it go. That said, at 12 days it’s starting to irk me a little bit. They actually showed up yesterday evening and determined that they needed to get into a room in our community (I’m guessing where all the connections come into). It was locked so they said they’d be back this morning… early in the morning. Yeah, it’s going on 12 pm here and I haven’t seen them at all! Such is life. 🙂

  3. P.S. We just signed up for package delivery via RedNBlue (next door to Isabella’s Bakery). They gave us a Miami address which will forward our packages to Boquete. They’ll call or email us when the package arrives. They charge $3 per lb (minimum $5) OR you can pay $2.50 per lb if you prefer they charge you according to volume instead. (We chose the flat $3 per lb). They accept credit cards. No monthly fee. You only pay when you pick up a package.
    See you around town soon!

  4. In all fairness the Manana thing isn’t always as bad as what you are experiencing right now. After being here a bit you realize that November, the first few weeks in particular, are not a good time to try and get anything done. With all of the holidays you should probably put off most anything short of emergency’s till December.

    1. Where were you a couple of weeks ago when we decided to make this change on the Internet, Bryan? 😉 We tend to just go with the flow anyway but that’s great info for everyone. Last year we had left about this time for a month and missed most of the November holidays.

  5. Hi Jim,
    Good, helpful info here, thanks for the post! Boquete is now on my wife’s and my “to visit” list, as are many of the Pueblos Mágicos in Mexico. We’ve been to a few of the latter and were really taken with the beauty of the architecture, ease of getting around, etc. Will be interesting to see how Boquete compares. Sounds like a friendly place, beautiful locale, and the population compares with our small coastal Massachusetts town, so we’d feel right at home. having a list like this helps to organize thoughts for an exploratory visit. Maybe we’ll see you there someday soon!

    Tuna

    PS – I am surprised, though, that your #15 doesn’t make a more frequent appearance in your listing. Call it subliminal, call it overt – but the end justifies the means, right? 🙂

    1. Haha, glad I sucked you in! You nailed a lot of what makes it a wonderful place. Look me up if you make the trip.

      And yes, that last point is probably the most important on the list… maybe it should have been #1 on the post! 😉

  6. Hi Jim, thank you for all the very helpful info. Wanted to ask you about the VPN. I have that on my laptop and it’s been working fine except one show I tried to watch on Amazon Prime (in their Starz channel 7 day trial) where it said VPN was detected and I need to exit it but then of course it then said “Not available in your area”. Do you know why that happened?

    1. Hi Geraldine – you nailed one of the biggest hurdles with using VPNs for streaming. Like I mentioned, the production companies tell the streaming services where in the world they’re allowed to present content. Because of that, it’s always going to be somewhat of a cat and mouse game with VPNs getting the tunnel to allow traffic to a streaming service and then that service finding ways to block them.

      That said, if you have problems with one, you can usually see how to get around it by Googling NordVPN and the streaming service. In this case, you should come up with this link:
      https://support.nordvpn.com/General-info/SmartPlay/1061839462/How-to-securely-watch-Amazon-Prime-with-NordVPN.htm
      I’ve had that issue before as well and they had listed workarounds on what to do. That said, things are always changing with how they get the service to work. Looking at the article, I’m not seeing any current issues as long as you follow their guidance on where to connect to. I hope that helps!

  7. Hey Jim,

    Super quick question (just signed up at Schwab, hope you get your bonus), and I’m sorry in advance for not putting in the effort to use the search bar, but what card/account (specifically, like you did with your Schwab account recommendation if you can) do you recommend for obtaining the best frequent flyer miles and rewards. My family and I are moving within the next 6 months, been planning for about 2 years, we are getting very excited. Hope to be able to buy you a beer in person!

    1. Thanks, Jeremiah – I don’t get any bonus on the Schwab signup – I’m just sharing out of the goodness of my heart! 🙂

      As far as the best FF miles and rewards, it depends a lot on your goals, which airlines are the main ones that fly out of your nearest airport to the destinations you want to go, the perks you need, etc. On my Recommended Credit Cards page, I have links to the cards that we’ve liked using. The Chase Sapphire and Ink cards are great because they aren’t specific to one airline.

      We currently use both the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card and the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card because we fly on both frequently and they both have no foreign transaction fees. Mid to late December is a great opportunity to start working on going after the Southwest Companion Pass for 2021-2022 if that something that’s important to you.

      So again, it really just depends. If you have questions, feel free to shoot me an email. The notification for this comment should be coming from my email address.

      Looking forward to meeting you when you get here!

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