Dumb Gringo Tricks, one needs to read and apply “all” before coming to Panama

Dumb Gringo Tricks
November 9, 2010 By Lee 8 Comments


To quote me, “ when you come to Panama, don’t check your brains at the airport”. With that said, I am continuously amazed at what some people do when they are here. I am going to relate snippets from anecdotal stories, all true or at least from enough pieces garnered together to weave a logical conclusion from the facts. I am not going to mention names because the lessons have nothing to do with the individuals, but only the actions and resulting consequences.
Panama has laws:
If you enter the country and have more than $10,000 in cash you need to report it on the entry form. If you do not, and some people have not, and they find it, sometimes they do, they will seize the cash. If you do report it, and some people do, there is an excellent chance you will be robbed and lose it. Bottom line don’t carry more than $10,000 in cash into Panama.
If you have an envelope full of diamonds shipped to you in Panama remember to declare the contents or you might find yourself accused of smuggling and lose your diamonds.
If you lend your car to someone remember you as owner are liable for their actions with your car. If they give it away, good luck recovering it. If they commit a crime, expect a visit from the police. If they get a ticket, you will find out when you go for new plates and you will need to pay it, the penalty and interest. Tickets tie to the car as well as the driver.
Guns can be owned legally in Panama, there is a long, six months or more, process. Owning an illegal gun can put you in jail. Using a gun legal or not, can do the same. Guns are almost as dangerous to the shooter as to the victim of their use. The laws about self defense are clear as mud.
Smart people do silly things here they would never do at home.
Should you find yourself in need of a house sitter, find a professional with references or you might find yourself missing your furniture, appliances and given enough time the roof and wiring too.
Just because another gringo says it is so, doesn’t make it so. That great deal for a property, which just needs $10,000 down, today, might not be so great. Never give money for real estate to anyone without a lawyer representing you and investigation of the title. People here have bought property from others who never owned the property. They make that down payment they never would have made in their home country based on trust. That money is as lost here as it would have been there.
Never pay up front for anything without some good references. It is common scam here, there and everywhere, to have a contractor request a downpayment and never appear to do the job. Kiss those dollars goodbye.
If you hire a contractor, pay them and they fail to pay Social Security or wages be prepared to pay both, again. You are still liable. Demand to see weekly pay ledgers signed by employees and monthly stubs from Social Security.
Don’t believe the real estate sales guy when he tells you there are no property taxes in Panama. There are property taxes. You may or may not have an exoneration on the house, but only the first $30,000 of the land is tax free. Would you believe the same person in your home country without verification?
Prices on major items in most stores are soft, only gringos pay the list price without negotiations. Try making an offer on those appliances or that car before you take out the check book.
One of the most important and potentially expensive decisions you will make is selecting the lawyer you hire. Be sure you can communicate well. Be sure you check references from people who used the lawyer, not just gossip. Be sure the lawyer explains their actions in immigration or business dealings. If the lawyer wants to be the beneficiary of your foundation find another lawyer. If the lawyer wants a bunch of money up front, find another lawyer. If the lawyer suggests bearer shares for a corporation and wants to hold them for you, find another lawyer. Forget malpractice claims in Panama, they don’t exist.
The list goes on and some of the most ridiculous stories make these pale. The message is this is the wild, wild west of Panama. We do have a rule of law, and we have carpet baggers of all ethnicities who would like to help you make your wallet lighter.

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2 Responses to “Dumb Gringo Tricks, one needs to read and apply “all” before coming to Panama”

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