(The Panama Gringo) This is a very difficult question for many people when they take the bold decision to move to this interesting and quirky, tropical paradise. The city offers such a diverse range of neighborhoods, housing and prices one could spend the better part of a year doing research on what’s the best area to live in! Now this Panamanian Gringo is one of a very laid back nature, and with month-to-month rent being the standard for most apartments in the city I literally just chose the first place I was shown in a neighborhood I was recommended over the web. Please read my article on how I became an ESL teacher in Panama to better understand my situation, but to sum it up I was hired while still living in a hostel so I didn’t really have the time to do an enormous amount of research. I was turned on to an essential website for those living in Panama called Encuentra24 which is the most popular classifieds website for renting, buying and applying for jobs in the country. I sent a brief inquiry on where to live (read it here) to the cool guys over at eyeonpanama.com and they recommended I live in El Cangrejo for its easily walk-able distances to supermarkets, restaurants, bars and anything else I could possibly need.
Not knowing the length of time this Gringo intends to be Panamanian I knew I needed a furnished place that would require as little material investment as possible. After a simple search I found a place with 3 roommates for $350 per month in the El Cangrejo area, in between Via Argentina and the Veneto Casino. The cost included a weekly maid, Washer and Dryer, TV, Internet, and Utilities. Not having any clue whether this was a good deal or not, but really liking the hammock on the 4th story balcony I accepted the offer without hesitation. Since my life was currently packed into a relatively small backpack this move was the simplest of my life and soon I was meeting my new roommates. At first none of them seemed to speak more than a few words of English which I was quite happy with as one of my reasons for being in Panama is to learn Spanish. My new family consists of three students; a Panamanian guy, a Portuguese girl and a Colombian girl. All of them are extremely nice and helpful, fun to go out with and the girls are nice looking.
As time has passed and I’ve made more friends in the city I’ve began to wonder if I am getting a good deal or not. Although my room and apartment are quite spacious the building is very old and things such as washer and dryer or shower drains seem to have problems every once in a while. Since I’ve had the chance to see a few other housing options in the area I feel like I might be slightly overpaying for what I am getting. A Canadian friend down the street pays $325 for a room in a brand new apartment with a great view, air conditioning and a swimming pool for the building. When I saw this apartment my deal seemed quite less sweet so I was somewhat disappointed. If it weren’t for my awesome roommates and comfortable balcony I think I would move, but the opportunity to immerse myself with local roommates outweighs having a comfortable apartment at this moment in my life. That being said I do think it is worth taking the extra time to see a number of different apartments especially in the El Cangrejo area before choosing one to live in. Rent seems to range between $200-600 depending on how nice of a room you need. Aside from the price of the room, the neighborhood of El Cangrejo is a fantastic place to live for an expat or anyone really. Literally anything you need is a short walk away and most of the people seem to be very nice and welcoming to foreigners. If you would like some more information on the El Cangrejo area or tips on living in Panama feel free to inquire below.