A Quick Trip To The City…


A couple of days ago we heard from our attorney that our Permanent Pensionado Visa was ready! I was really surprised it was ready so fast. I fully expected it to take several months, we just submitted our application in early July. So, a trip to Panama City to pick up our visa was in order. Given what happened last time we left our employees alone, we really wanted to get this trip done with as few days away from the job site as possible. So we decided to leave early on Sunday morning and return as soon as we got done at immigration on Monday. We got up early on Sunday and drove down to town, parked my car near the central park area and got on the 6:30a.m. bus to David, this takes about an hour. Then we bought our tickets and were on the 8:30 bus to Panama City. Our bus ride into the city went really smoothly, the bus was very comfortable and it only took 7 hours instead of the 8 hours it has taken with all the construction on the PanAmerican highway.

My friend Emma kindly offered to have us stay the night at her place and even picked us up from the bus terminal when we got in. She got a sparkly new car, so we were riding in style! Hah! After relaxing at her place for a bit, with a glass of wine, and a quick haircut for Emma, we decided to walk to dinner. Last time I had visited her she took Kris & I to a yummy Caribbean restaurant near to her apartment, so I wanted Scott to try it. Emma’s roommate Andrew joined us and we had a great spicy Caribbean meal, and two pitchers of Sangria! What a nice end to a travel day.

The next morning we got up at 6:00 and got out the door by 7:00, I had arranged for our favorite driver, Panama John, to pick us up and take us to the immigration office for our 7:30 meet with our attorney. We were experienced this time and knew what to expect. We had to laugh because our driver said, “You do know that the immigration office doesn’t open until 8:00?” Hah! We explained to him that one must get there early and stand in the line that snakes around the corner of the building. And John says,”OH, well, you will be the first in line!” Hah! Silly John….he was surprised when we drove up at 7:15 and low and behold…the line was snaked around the corner of the building….We were not first! Oh well. John agreed to wait for us or return in an hour or so, one really has no way of predicting how long it will take once you step into a government building. We thought it would be pretty fast, but you just can’t count on it.

It was the usual “Pin-Ball-machine” experience. Stand in line outside, get let into the building, stand in line at the reception desk for your number, sit in the uncomfortable chairs and stare at the television screen for a looooong looooong time until your number comes up, hand the lady behind the window your papers, wait for her supervisors to come and review all your paperwork, then wait while the lady stamps everything and then go downstairs to pay $100.00 each, go back upstairs and give the receipt to the lady behind the window, go wait again in reception for another number, then go wait again and stare at the tv screen until your number comes up, then go through the door where they take your photo and finally hand you your pensionado visa ID card……Viola! Done! Three hours gone! But according to our attorney we never have to visit the immigration office again….we shall see about that. So, we officially have our permanent, visa and we have one tiny little thing to complete before we can say we’re done , that is to get our Cedula. This is something the attorney will get for us, we just pay hime $150.00 and in a month or so he will call us and we go to the city to pick it up.

A Cedula is, as far as I can ascertain, similar to our Social Security cards in the states. This card takes us completely out of the immigration system and makes us just like every other citizen of Panama, (Kinda) we aren’t “Citizens” exactly, our attorney tells us the only difference is that we can’t vote. It’s not something that you must have but its a good thing to do and it’s not nearly the same hassle to get after you have your residency visa. After we get this Cedula we will have a number, similar to our Social Security number, that will never change. It will be your number for good. Unlike your Passport number, which changes when you renew it, if I understand this correctly, the Cedula number stays the same. So as of right now, much of our documents like our car registration and our drivers licenses and bank accounts, are connected to our Passport number so when our passports expire we will have to go and renew all the paperwork for all the things that we have connected to that number. With our Cedula Number we will never have to worry about updating it or changing it, since its a number that stays the same. This sounds like a good thing to us, so we will take this one extra step and get it done now.

After our three hours of “Pin-ball-hell” our wonderfully reliable driver, John was there waiting for us. He drove us to the bus terminal and off we went to catch a bus back to Boquete. We bought our tickets, and used our shiny new Pensionado Id’s and guess what…we got our very first discount as pensionados! yep! Our bus ticket only cost us $10.40, instead of the normal $15.00 each! Wow! Sadly, our bus ride home ended up taking us wayyy longer than our ride into the city the day before! Ugggg! You just never can tell what to expect. Maybe it was faster on Sunday because the construction crews weren’t working on the road expansion. And we had the added delay at the checkpoint coming into Chiriqui provence. Normally a guard will come on the bus and check passports and such, this doesn’t usually take much time at all, but this time for some random reason that I don’t know about, they actually made the bus pull into their gated area…when I saw our bus doing this I knew we were in trouble. They instructed everyone on the bus to get off the bus and they emptied all the bags from the luggage area under the bus, they had drug sniffing dogs and they searched some of the bags and then they searched everyone getting back on the bus. They didn’t seem to find anything of interest and we were on our way after all the drama. We left the bus terminal in PC at 10:30 a.m. and arrived in Boquete at about 9:00p.m.

I must say, I got my second wind when we got on the ‘disco tech’ bus from David to Boquete! Haha! There are buses here called Diablo Rojo, they’re very colorful brightly decorated buses that used to be a fixture in Panama City. The government recently got rid of the majority of them but there are still a few around and we just happened to jump on one for our ride back up the mountain last night. I’m sure it’s not quite the same as riding one in the city since the ones going up to Boquete aren’t dodging traffic and speeding around , but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I just love the bright flashing lights and the thumping latin music blasting as we rode back home to our quiet little mountain town. Although I swear, I think the two guys driving and collecting the money were about 12 years old!! Hahahaha!! We were sitting right in the front seat and at one point while we were speeding up the hill, music blaring, lights flashing, I looked up and the driver and his assistant were both on their smart phones checking Face book!!! Oh Boy!!! Some things never change, no matter where you are in the world. I’m just glad the nearly 8 hour bus ride from the city was on a quiet, air conditioned bus and not a Diablo Rojo …that would have truly been a long, long ride!!! Haha! We can check one more adventure off our list!

About hollycarter184

Life is Good! But it's time for a change, and more adventure! I'd like to share the whole experience of preparing then actually making a reality of expatriating, and moving to a new country. It's an exciting, and slightly scary move full of possibility . I'm looking forward to learning a new language and making new connections with the people who share our spirit of adventure. This blog is my way of continuing my connection with my friends and family in the States. Sooooo here it goes! :)

21 responses »

  1. I always questioned why our attorney had us meet at the office and then go to Immigrations. We would get there around 9:30. Ray had said it was because if we get to the building, the line would be wrapped around it, so we would stand there and then wait three hours lol. But my point has always been to get there early to get an earlier number and less of a chance to wait as long. Let’s treat it like Black Friday in the States and show up at Best Buy two days prior to start the line. Oh well, we wait 3 or 4 or 5 hours—we get our stinking cards! Did you smile pretty for the camera? And did it conehead you?

    • Haha! YES!! Super conehead!!! And seriously, I don’t think there is any way to step foot into that immigration office and leave in a timely manner, it just doesn’t really matter what time you arrive, its just a painful, long day that ends with a smile!! And I did smile but theres no way to look pretty in those darn photos! Oh well, we’re all just cone head gringos!! Pffffft!!

  2. Oh, another thing in case anyone is reading blog and currently has temporary card, we used the temporary card when we were issued it last January. It was accepted at restaurants. We also used the temporary card this past month with our hotel. It’s worth a try 🙂 Just don’t forget that you have it which happens a lot. (Let the waiter or cashier know ahead of time.)

    • That’s funny, We did try to use our temporary card for discounts and it didn’t work! Strange, we tried at the Milan Hotel and at the travel agency for a flight back to David, shot down both times, oh well! You just never can tell, everyone has a different experience here!

  3. Congratulations! That is a huge accomplishment, and you can say you celebrated with a ride in a diablo rojo! LOL. Maybe someday Russ can tell you about the time he went joy riding around Panama City in one of those. It is quite a story, and I have to say I am a little bit sad they are mostly gone from around the city, although it did my heart good this summer to see them all lined up at Albrook.

  4. So happy for you both. Big hurdle you’ve leapt over. And your first discount, WOW!! We hope to be in Boquete for the month of April 2015 after spending March in Boca del Toro. I will let you know when our plans firm up and when it is closer to arrival. I’d love to get together as I have enjoyed your blog so much. Cheers.

  5. Good for you! We look forward to hopefully meeting you when we are there in December, staying in Alto Boquete. If you have a trusted driver in P.C., we’d love to have his contact info. since we might need a driver while we’re in the city! Thanks, Neva Miller

    • Hey Neva! thanks for your comment! Indeed! When you come to Boquete please do contact me and we can connect, I’d love that! And yes! Here is our driver in PC John…, he’s so reliable, and speaks English to boot! He responds well to emails and if you have the Whatsapp app on a smartphone he really likes to use that as well…his Panama number is 507-6065-3942…
      airportridespanama@gmail.com tell him Holly & Scott Carter sent you..you’ll be in good hands for sure.

  6. Now that Air Panama has raised their rates AGAIN (pensionado discount $117) we will be taking the bus more often. First time is Thursday. I hope we have better luck at security!
    Congratulations on your Permanent Pensionado!! And Panamanians really do look at you in a more positive manner once they see the Ecedula.

  7. Woop! Woop! Doesn’t it feel great to be official and legal? I am so proud of you and Scott. Congratulations! And, what the above commenter says is true…with your cedulas the local people really do look at you in a more positive manner. At least it’s true for us in Nicaragua.

  8. Wow that was fast. We received our temporary pensionados in May and still haven’t got word that our permanent ones are ready. I think a call to my lawyer is in order lol! Congrats you guys!

    • Thanks guys! Yes, we’re thrilled to have that over with!!! And what the heck is your attorney doing??? I agree…time to make a phone call!!! Also, I can’t believe we haven’t had time to connect with you guys!! Life is too damn busy for us!!! We gotta make it happen!

      • Yes. Our daughter just went back to Canada today and no more company planned so we are pretty free now. Would love to come your way and visit!

  9. Hi, Holly!

    Congrats on your Pensionadofication!! If you get a chance, I would love a summary of your experience from starting the process to receiving your Cedula — mostly because I’m curious how many trips to PTY you had to make. My wife and I have been thinking it might be best for us to start by living in PTY until we get our credentials and then move to Boquete.

    Arriving in Boquete in 31 days! (Can you tell we’re excited??)


    • Your right it is possible and I’m sure MUCH easier but in our case it wasn’t possible. You see, after looking into the different options for residency we decided the Pensionado visa sounded like it was the best option for us for several reasons. The issue for us was that we are too young to receive Social Security and didn’t have any kind of pension or anything so in order to satisfy the financial requirement of $1,250.00 per month income we opted to purchase an annuity that would pay us that amount for life. This was not something we could afford to do until after we sold our home in California. Then Panama required proof of a minimum of 3 months bank statements of that income. It became even more of a wait for us because they also wanted all sorts of documentation from the institution we were receiving the annuity from, proof of viability of the company etc. These documents also took more time to collect than we expected. So, you see, our path wasn’t quite as straight forward as most and we probably, in hindsight, which as you know is 20/20, could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle opting for a different choice in visas. So, from reading my story , if you’ve been through this process and it was not as much of a long, drawn out process for you, I can see how you’d be scratching your head while reading my account of our experience, hah. We just love to make our lives difficult I guess! Hah! But, boy am I glad it’s over and all turned out well in the end!

  10. SO not in the mood to work today! And SO wanting to catch up on my Holly blogs 🙂

    Loved your description here about the process to finally get your pensionados. That is a huge achievement – congrats!

    Also – I’m glad to hear there are still a few “Diablo Rojos” around! I know PC is much safer now but I was little sorry they had been banned. I always loved riding them – the crazy decor inside, the crucifixes everywhere (we learned that the more religious symbols the driver had, the crazier the ride would be), and the ear-splitting salsa music. To me, it all just says Panama!

    I have a sweet little bus story to tell you sometime (if I haven’t already told you)

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