Exactly two weeks from today, we’re hopping that red-eye flight to our new life in Panama. We just know you’re on the edge of your seats, wondering what we’re up to – so here’s a little status report!
In typical intuitive doggy fashion, Maggie and Rosie know something big is afoot – although I don’t think they have a clue how much their lives are about to be turned upside down. We’ve gotten them re-acclimated to their crates, which wasn’t too difficult since they were crate-trained as puppies. Funny story: the other day a visitor came to the front door, and when we gave them the “crate” command they both ran into the big crate together! Good thing they’re buddies . . .
The other day we took a trip to the Copa Airlines cargo office at LAX and spoke to Jaime the ops manager. Jaime is a very nice and helpful young man who put us completely at ease about the process of getting dogs, crates, and paperwork dropped off prior to our flight. We took one of the crates to show him and got his blessing, and we were pleased to find out we don’t have to replace the connecting hardware or provide labels, ties, etc. (as we had been told before). We just provide water bottles and a little food, and Copa does the rest. It’s clear that they’ve flown many, many animals and know exactly what they’re doing, which is an enormous relief to us.
John has also been lining up all the ducks for the necessary paperwork to keep the girls out of quarantine when we arrive in Panama City. We have appointments with the vet to update their shots and complete the health certificate, with the LA office of the USDA to sign and stamp the form, and with the Panamanian consulate here in Long Beach to “apostile” (a type of notarization) and bless everything. None of these things can be done prior to 10 days before the travel date, so we’ll be scrambling around a bit after next Monday. It’s a huge advantage to live near a major city like LA because we have all of these resources close at hand (or at least within driving distance).
On the other end, we’ve hired an agent, Jose Saenz, to meet our flight and manage the dog paperwork with the Panamanian officials. We could probably handle it ourselves but we’ll be exhausted from the all-night flight and don’t want to leave ANYTHING to chance concerning our girls. Jose and his pet relocation service, Rana Dorada, are well-known and highly recommended by Panamanian expats. He’ll also drive us, the girls, and our stuff across the country to Boquete the next day.
I’m pleased to report that John had catheter ablation for his atrial fibrillation (a highly treatable and non-life-threatening heart condition) a week ago and he’s recovered wonderfully. His doctor says the procedure was a great success and he has an excellent (at least 80 percent) chance of being completely cured of a-fib. Both of us have been getting busy getting final health appointments done, getting our medical records from various doctors to take down with us, and laying in supplies of our prescription meds.
MAIL, CAR, AND A PLACE TO HANG OUR HATS
Meanwhile, everything is falling into place for our arrival in Boquete on May 1. For the first two months, we’ll be renting a small apartment in Casa Valhalla, a lovely and dog-friendly property across from the Rio Caldera in Boquete.
We’re asked almost daily about our new address and how we’ll receive mail down in Panama. The short answer is that we won’t have a Boquete street address but John has signed us up for a mail forwarding service, eShop Boquete. Here’s how it will work: we can have items shipped to eShop Boquete’s Miami address, and they’ll be forwarded to the Boquete shop. The catch here is that it’s on the pricey side, so we’re trying to stop all paper deliveries of things like bank statements (and that’s turning out to be quite a challenge).
For wheels, we’re working with Keith Wolford, another highly recommended resource that the Boquete expats swear by. For a set fee, Keith will find and purchase a car for us on our behalf, take care of registration and other paperwork, and have it delivered to Boquete.
Notice I’ve put this last, since – really – it’s the least important item on the list. Since my last post on this topic, we’ve re-thought our stuff strategy. We’re no longer shipping anything down to Panama. We’re only taking what we can pack into checked luggage on the 29th, plus some items we won’t need right away that we’re shipping to my parents in Texas. When I go there for a visit in June, I’ll bring the rest back down with me. We’ve sold one car and the other is now advertised. We just have a couple of large furniture pieces and a few household items to liquidate — and we’re staging our final garage sale this Saturday to make that happen.
Wow! Time sure flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?
Right??? We’ll be there harassing you before you know it!
Was pleased to see you are using Jose Saenz (goldenfrog.net). As I read the earlier part of your post I was thinking I would forward his contact information…..but you have it. He is great. Have used him on many occasions. Our first trip in 2011 he helped me get set up with a cell phone (they want a local address and he used his) as we passed thru Panama City. Used a sim in my iPad2 for maps, and a phone for ‘in case’.
He also went with me to assist on my drivers license. Knew where to go, who to see, (US Embassy, applications/bank fees to pay/and sat with me at motor vehicles for my eye/hearing test, to be sure no Spanish language problems. His daughter also drives some for him. He drove another couple we are friends with here in Boquete, from Panama City to Boquete with their dog and 15 bags/boxes when they relocated. He drives slowly cross country….but knows all the short cuts and ways around traffic in PC as he grew up there.
There is a better way to ‘ship’ your bags/boxes from Panama City to Boquete or most other locations in the country than airlines. They charge $25 and up per item. Trucking firm …$6 each and delivered by 2 PM next day in Boquete. He drops our bags for us when we arrive, and they are there next day. Fletes Chavale is the firm….similar to UPS and trucking firms in US. He also does tours, but we have not done that yet.
Now with the new connections with Copa Airlines, they have 2 a day flights from Tocumen Int’n’l to and from David. Until that happened recently, it was necessary to taxi across town to Albrook airport for the Air Panama flights to David. Most connections required an overnight stay in PC…going and coming.
When you meet him…..tell him HI from us (Ray and Cleo). No spiffs. referrals, etc. Just a thank you from us.
Recommend the Milan Hotel (hotelmilan.com.pa). Central location, many restaurants in the close area, inexpensive, but clean, basic room w/ air.
There are a number of car rental firms at the David airport, but only Thrifty in Boquete (can one way). There are also Boquete taxi drivers who will pick up by appointment in David to transport to Boquete.
Thank you for the great info, Ray and Cleo! We’ve made a note of your email and we’ll be in touch. Do you know when you’ll be coming back down to Panama?
I can’t believe it’s really happening!! I will look forward to lots of pics and interesting stories from your new home. Safe travels to you guys and the pups!
Right, Donder?? We’re getting so excited. Hope you’re making your plans to come down for a visit 🙂
Where in Panama will you end up? Caribbean or Pacific
Hi, we’re starting out in Boquete in the coffee highlands a half hour from David on the Pacific side. Who knows where we’ll end up?
You guys are on a roll!! I love how fluid you both are, lots of people would have a freak out with the thought of not shipping anything down! This Jose guy sounds pretty awesome, I’ll have to be sure to get some great contact info from you when we’re ready to move! Good luck and keep us updated!!
Thanks, Rebecca! We’ve gotten some fantastic advice from people who have been through this, so we’re happy to share our experience going forward if it’s helpful. Keep us posted!
I’m so glad the fur babies will be well taken care of…I’m sure that is a huge load off your minds. Glad John in on the mend and I’m so impressed that you are hardly taking anything. Starting from scratch…. Amazing, exciting and so cool!!!!
Thanks, Robin! It’s all about the girls 🙂 And yes, we’re so excited.
Woohoo!! You will be here very soon! It sounds like you are wonderfully organized and connected with all the right people to help you get settled. But, if you need anything just holler. We’re looking forward to seeing you when you recover from the big move 🙂
Thanks! We’re so looking forward to reconnecting with you and Joel when we get there 🙂
Hi, really enjoyed reading your blog. I noticed you reconsidered shipping your items LCL down, is there a reason, cost, buy new, etc..?
Also if you were going to ship, what was the name of the company who would do it?
Lastly, do they ship to other areas in CA?
I live in Ventura area and will be relocating to CA in September.
Keep up the good work, and look forward to receiving the blog updates by email.
Glad you like our blog! The LCL shipping company we were planning on using is Delvi, based in Miami. They come very highly recommended by other Panamanian expats that have used them. The process, as I understand it, is that you need to get your items shipped from California to Delvi in Miami. They handle crating and shipping down to Panama City. Then you’ll need to have your property delivered to the final destination (in our case, Boquete). For that, many expats use an in-country delivery service, Fletes Chavale, which has an office in David and possibly Boquete.
We decided not to do the shipment after looking at the pile of stuff and realizing that there was nothing particularly special or sentimental there, and certainly nothing we couldn’t replace down in Panama. Not worth the expense or hassle.
If any of my blogger friends want to chime in with better info about working with Delvi and Fletes, please do. We had barely started researching this and I’m sure there are some holes in our info.
John and Susan,
Thank you for the fast response and great information!. I will look into this further if I too decide to ship some items but, like you, I think I may want to purchase as I need.
Actually have most of my items down to about 10 to 12 boxes the size of large suit cases.
Thanks again and enjoy your retirement and have fun!
Reading your blog sounds like us just 2 years ago Sell, pack, sell, list, sell, store and worry about the pets. It all works out. You’ll soon be enjoying a Balboa on your patio
That sounds sooo inviting right now 🙂
Really great info from everyone. We are doing our exploratory trip in June for 2 weeks and hope to move sometime early next year. It’s especially calming to hear about your girls and how that all works, we have a ‘baby’ also 🙂
Thanks, Eric. I’m glad our blog is helpful. Soon I’ll be posting a more detailed, step-by-step account of our dog odyssey since it has been the most complex part of this process. It’s all about the babies 🙂
I a retired EP nurse! How’s John’s Afib?