It gets REAL! Leaving California arriving in Panama.

The start of our adventure July 13, 2015 through July 14th “The day that never ended”.

LAX to Mexico City to Panama
Getting ready for the adventure of our life.

Deciding to move to Panama was easy, the act of getting there was going to be much more complicated. We knew that our 4 dogs were going to make the move with us, but we had no idea how to make it happen. After doing a little research online we found Panama Pet Relocation, a company that specializes in Pet Transport to and from the U.S. and Latin America.  Once we hammered out all the details is was going to cost us $6000 US dollars to transport them, including the paperwork for customs & immigration. This number was no easy pill to swallow at $1500 per dog!! So, instead we started considering our options.

  1. We do all the paperwork and buy two additional plane tickets to transport them on our own (most airlines will only fly two dogs per flight).
  2. We would purchase a motor home for about the same cost and make the drive to Panama through Central America. This option was much more appealing to us as it would give us a vehicle as soon as got to Panama and we could have more “stuff” or “crap”, as Todd calls it, with us.

We bought a book, read blogs, watched YouTube videos and talked with friends and family about it. I am sure we would have made it safely in one piece, but we just didn’t feel comfortable spending that much time in Mexico.


LAX sunset
Our last California Sunset it was a great one

This brings us to July 13th 2015, the day it really became….well…..Real!  At around 2pm the pet transportation company came to our house to pick up our doggies and officially started our journey. Once they were gone we loaded up our 8 pieces of luggage and headed to LAX Airport.

—> Pointer: If you travel first or business class you can carry 20lbs more per bag. We also recommend purchasing a non-stop flight if possible! We had frequent flyer miles to use to fly on AeroMexico from LAX to Mexico City then Panama. Due to the time change and layovers it was very long 24 hours. Since we changed planes in Mexico City, Customs had to inspect every bag we had tightly packed. Be aware in Mexico City you have to get your luggage and transfer it to the connecting flight, not a simple task.

So after those 24 hours we arrived in Panama around 2pm in the afternoon. You will want to do the same! We heard about the traffic but being from Southern California we honestly didn’t think it could be that bad…….it is!! Luckily our timing that day was spot on.

First thing off the plane we headed to the rental car counter (after being told not to smile for immigration photo, haha) while waiting Todd headed to the cell phone Kiosk/vending machine with attendant. –>Pointer: Make sure to bring a phone with a SIM card that is unlocked, otherwise you’re screwed! We just bought a 1 week plan of data and limited calling so we could call a couple friends, family and have the internet to route us to our new home. Keep in mind we had never been here, so our eyes were wide open and we were completely out of our element!

—> Pointer: Start using Waze traffic/map APP in the states before you come so you’re used to it! The app works really well in Panama and they have lots of points, stores, locations, etc. that say Google Maps doesn’t offer. I’m giving this pointer because I hate Waze it doesn’t make any sense to me so I wish I would have used it at home where I knew the roads first.

Once to the rental counter we checked in for our car. Don’t think you can skip insurance here either, it’s literally manditory! Not like in the States, you cannot not rent a car without it! It’s a crock and expensive but it beats the alernative….buses….with I will discuss later on!

Immediately I was shocked by the fact that only one person at the rental company spoke English, this was the first of many epiphanies I would have in our first week here! We got the car, nearly, loaded it with our bags and hit the road.  We knew we wanted to be out of The City(Panama City) before 3pm. So the drive began to San Carlos, our new home for the next 2 months. We were headed to a place we had never been, to meet a woman we had never met that spoke no English, to live! Sounds Crazy? It was! Considering we were bringing our 4 beagles to this unknown place as well!

Once we were out of town the countryside started getting greener and more open. As you drive down the Panamerican Highway you hit a “District/town” about every 20-30 Kilometers. –> Pointer: start using the metric system now at home so you’re comfortable with it! Canadians have a great advantage here over us Americans!

From town to town you notice similar buildings, bus stops, bridges and offerings. Each town has at least one M/S or Mini-Super which I would best compare to an AM/PM or 7/11 with food, necessities and some have butchers (meat market) inside of them.

When we arrived in Coronado Town to meet our Host and get keys we had a little sense of familiarity as we had watched YouTube videos about Coronado and saw what some of the centers looked like. We will be putting together a videos that give a better view of town shortly “Stay Tuned”.

Upon meeting Miliedes we headed to our rental house. This was exciting and nerve wrecking all at the same time. See, once we found a place that would take us and our 4 dogs we didn’t ask too many more questions, I.E. is there Air Conditioning? Hot Water? No bugs? Fully fenced yard? Kitchen basics,etc. We were kind of just going with it! We got there and took the tour and Miliedes left. At this point reality sunk in! The house was hot, in the jungle and very basic. What was I thinking? We just sold our home with granite counters, stainless steel appliances, furniture, a safe yard for our dogs….and this is where we will be for the next 2 months of our lives?  It was tough! Being there without the dogs or comforts of our home hit hard the first couple nights.

–>Pointer: if you’re going to rent in Panama have someone check it out, or do your due diligence in establishing what the house has and doesn’t have. Since we had 4 dogs our choices were limited. If you don’t have pets you will have tons of options.

We did a little unpacking then headed back to town to pick up a few food items for the house. Since we had been there earlier in the day we went back to El Machetazo. Wow! What an amazing place! It’s 3 stories and filled with about everything you could want from groceries to clothes to sporting goods and automotive supplies. It was like a Super WalMart but not as much crap. We were very impressed and happy to know that we wouldn’t have any issues getting the staple items that we were used to back in the States. We bought items headed back to the house and called it a night. At this point we were running on about 2-3 hours of sleep over a 24 hour time frame. We were pooped (which the heat helped). I cried for about and hour being sad about the dogs, and the new digs, but Todd My Rock consoled me and kept me thinking about Thursday when the dogs would arrive.


LAX Mexico City Panama
Airport preparing to board for our Panama Trip


136 thoughts on “It gets REAL! Leaving California arriving in Panama.”

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    1. We have a friend that can help with that, it is certainly a different process than we were used to in the US. The friend along with another also rents cars for long term if you like, much more reasonable that the main brand rental places. The main brands typically fail to mention the mandatory insurance you must pay for and the taxes in their rates, so keep that in mind. Feel free to email us and we will share the contact information for mentioned sales and rentals guys.

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