Friday, October 16, 2015

"I Spend 40% Less in Panama City Than if I Lived in the U.S."

By Jessica Ramesch

As night begins to fall, strings of lights twinkle above my head. The temperature drops 10 degrees to about 78 F...absolutely perfect. The open rooftop terrace of Panama City's Tantalo Hotel is a fantastic place to enjoy the cool evening breeze. Not to mention the colonial architecture of Casco Viejo, one of Panama's oldest (and most romantic) quarters.
It's not the kind of view people envision before they visit Panama. Most picture the impressive city skyline of gleaming glass, rimming the Panama Bay or the expansive Pacific coast beaches just an hour's drive from the capital.
That's the beauty of life in Panama's capital city. Each neighborhood has a different feel and there's somewhere to suit every taste—homey neighborhoods filled with pretty houses and not a highrise in sight and downtown hubs that are convenient and walkable and boast views of the deep blue Pacific...
What's really great about Panama City is the high-value, low cost of living. When I consider my monthly budget—along with important costs like health insurance and medications—I figure I'm spending 40% less than I would if I still lived Stateside.
Rents in other coveted world cities like New York are double or even quadruple what you'd pay here. In Panama City you can rent an upscale apartment for two, in a building with a pool, doorman, and other amenities, for as little as $1,300 a month...think how much a place like that would set you back in any other First-World capital.
In a capital this varied, it's impossible to get bored. I've lived here for more than 10 years, and it still surprises me. I have access to the art and cultural activities I was used to back in the States—not to mention a wide range of ethnic cuisine.
There are familiar products in malls and supermarkets, so I don't have to go without favorite items. And the capital is a perfect base from which to explore the country's highland areas, Caribbean beaches, historical towns...everything is close and easy to get to.
When it comes to overall comfort and convenience, Panama City beats every other place I've ever lived.
Take today, for example. My day began with a visit to my chiropractor, Dr. Sherry Goldsberry—who speaks perfect English. I pay her for about a month's worth of sessions at a time and it works out to just $16 a session.
When I was done there, I crossed the street to a little fitness studio. The trainers have promised to whip me into shape. I don't always pull my weight, but they're patient and kind. Like most Panamanians, they're friendly and like to laugh, so it makes for a surprisingly good time.
After that I headed to the Balboa Theater for a production of the opera Acis & Galatea. My front-row balcony ticket was just $20. The music was fantastic and my friend Monica sang in the chorus...just one of many fun and accessible opportunities that are always materializing here.
And in an affordable city with all the modern amenities...high-speed internet, fantastic cell phone service, and a new network of parks and recreation areas...let me tell you, the opportunities are boundless.
Before moving here, I never knew a major city could be so welcoming. Maybe it's me who has become friendlier and more mellow as I've gotten older. But then, if I'd stayed in the States, I don't think I'd be this laidback.

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