Todd and I have a tendency to not plan anything. Last year when we went to Japan we had no plans and nowhere to stay when we landed there.
Life Nomadic 2008 is no different.
Before we left I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a an apartment to rent online. We even worked through Century 21 here in Panama, which turned out to be a colossal disappointment. They found us a place, but then when we got here they skipped on a meeting they were supposed to have with us and then said, "Sorry! He doesn't want to rent it short term anymore."
For the first night we booked a $160 a night hotel on the internet. As soon as we checked in it was obvious that we were overpaying and that only businessmen from the US would stay here. The hotel was fine, but we checked out the next day.
We asked our taxi driver to help us find a hotel, and he came up with a great one (and was no doubt getting a kickback from them). It was closer to the ocean than our original one, was comparable quality, and only cost $50 per night.
In retrospect, we should have never booked that first hotel. Panama is a first class city in many ways, but they aren't fully integrated on the internet like the US, Japan, or Western Europe. The hotels you see online will ONLY be the overpriced ones. So from now on for developing countries we won't book stuff on the internet.
The second hotel had wifi, unlike the first one, so I spent more time finding an apartment. My search in the US was limited only to the rich gringo areas, because I didn't know any better. After wandering around for a few days I realized that those weren't necessarily the best areas to live in.
I found an apartment online in Bella Vista (that means "beautiful view" in Spanish), and used my new Panama cell phone service to call the owner. It was available, so we went over to check it out. We rented it that day.
We negotiated the price down to $2100 for the two months, plus a $500 refundable deposit. No leases to sign, just cash from the ATM. The apartment has a small kitchen, a small living room, and two bedrooms, all furnished. It has two balconies, one serving as the entrance to the apartment and one off the living room.
The balcony is immeasurably pleasant. Thirteen stories below is one of the major avenues of Panama City (Via EspaÃ±a), with a constant stream of taxis and brightly painted buses driving past. We have a 180 degree view of the city, the ocean, and the cruise and cargo ships entering the canal.
Here's a panorama of our view!
We leave the front door open and the door to the balcony open. I don't know if it has something to do with the two oceans or the nearby mountains, but we have a constant breeze flowing through the apartment. The temperature is always perfect.
Our dining table was quickly moved to the balcony, so now we eat and work while enjoying the perfect weather and the beautiful views of the city. As we've remarked many times, "this is the life!"
We can easily jog to our favorite restaurant (review coming soon), or take a taxi for $3 round trip. The building has 24 hour security (there are very few police here, but a lot of private security. It's pretty cool) and all of our utilities and broadband internet are paid for.
Todd and I keep wondering why more people don't do this.
Total: $1100 a month to live in paradise. This isn't a third world country, either. You can drink the water from the tap, get broadband internet, have good cell service, etc. There are huge malls with every store you're used to visiting.
If you wanted to spend six months here, you could easily be living for under $1k/month. Trust me... it's not very difficult to make an online business that makes $1000 a month.
Anyway... things worked out fantastically as usual. I'm going to make a sandwich now (we went to a little health food store called Organica yesterday and bought tons of stuff) and eat it out on the balcony.