Depending on the area you decided to move to, rental availability changes, in the larger communities, like Panama City, Coronado area and Boquete, you could easily come here, stay in a 3 week Airbnb, and find something ready to move into. About 90% of rentals in Panama come fully furnished, many with pots and pans, bedding and even towels, all you bring in your toothbrush and clothes. In the more remote areas, like El Valle de Anton, Pedasí, Las Lajas, there is lesser availability, so you will have to do more searching.
If you are planing to bring all your furniture and appliance, you may want to think about that. If you cannot do without it, maybe find storage back in your home country for 6 months, come here and rent for a while and look for that perfect place to rent or buy. As I mentioned, most houses for rent are already furnished, and the ones that are not, may not fit your furniture, especially your appliances. If you have a big 6 burner stove, and a 4 foot double wide fridge, it may be difficult finding a home in Panama that fits those appliances.
So, for those of you that have decided to sell everything, or store your things for a while, then you are ready to start your search. If you are insistent on bringing a container of stuff, then you need to get online and start looking at unfurnished places, that will fit everything that you are bringing, and you will really need a rental agent that can help you get what you need.
If you are not working with an agent, the best place to start is the online rental sites. Be very, very, very careful renting a place online, and sending a deposit to someone you don’t know. This can be very dangerous, and you could end up with a place, that is not like the pictures, or just end up without a place, and loose your deposit. If you know no one in Panama, talk to Oscar and I to see if we can help you.
These are the best places to start your search:
Even before you begin your search, join some discussion forums in the area that you are considering, like:
These are related to the Boquete Area, do some searches to find other forums in the area that you have decided to move to. Become a member, as you will be asking some questions.
Here is a group for Coronado area,
And the Panama City Group
Hot Water: Hot water in Panama is typically delivered by instant water heaters hanging on the side of your house, and often is not plumed to every location in the house. In the lower end Panamanian houses, it is typical not to have hot water, only an electric shower heard for warm showers. These are nick named “suicide showers”. They actually are not that bad, I had one in the first house I rented, and I was fine with it. They provide a consistent semi hot shower for a long as you want.
In basic Panama houses, the instant hot water tank, may only service your kitchen sink and shower. In North American style homes, you should have hot water in all areas, but if this is a stickler for you, make sure you check. In my house, I have hot water in my kitchen and shower, but no hot water in bathroom vanities or laundry.
Water Outages: this is where the forums come in. If you find a house in a specific neighborhood, check the water reliability in the forums asking if there are frequent water outages there. This can be a problem, and many rentals will have water back up tanks, if you see this in your listing, you are covered.
Power Outages: Some areas of Panama, still have old electrical grids, and can experience frequent power outages. In all of Panama, will will have more power outages than in North America, but that it just the way it is in Latin America.
Fast Internet. This is important to many, as maybe you work online, or you will get your English TV through streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. For fast internet, you need to check to see if the location you are looking for is services by Cable Onda, the company in Panama that offers up to 600 meg internet speeds in most of the country. Cable Onda offers two services, cable wired to your house in most areas, and satellite in more remote areas. The satellite only offers up to 40 meg service.
Another services provider, is Cable and Wireless, which offer slower speeds of 20 megs, but still good enough to stream Netflix. If you are moving to a real remote area, there are services in Chiriquí like Planet Telecom and in Panama Province like PaNETma who offer wireless service, which can be very expensive for lower speeds, but sometimes the only alternative.