Dec 30, 2010

Panama's Prices----"Things Ain't Like They Used to Be"

I first visited Panama in 2006, but have been coming & going as a part-time resident since January 2007.   Most recently, in anticipation of a long-sought visit from one of my sisters, I've started exploring tourism services again. What a shock!  The cost of hotel rooms and transportation services has skyrocketed in this short time.   The world is focusing on Panama---to it's detriment, in my humble opinion.  

I've written elsewhere about destruction of the landscape and flora in Boquete, and how highway expansion in the area is destroying the very reason for creating a better road into town.  Panama's beaches are getting overpopulated and pricey as well.  Panama City is already ahead of everything else.  It's sad but inevitable, I guess.  Just a few examples:  

One of my Panamanian friends spent six months researching new apartments in Panama City,  and finally settled on an 800 sq foot, 1-bedroom space on the 7th floor of one of the new high rises centrally located.  She feels she got a good deal, and works in the industry so she should know.   She paid 180K for the construction and received the unit with stark white, flat-painted walls, a thin-partitioned, provisional front door,  closet-sized bath, no kitchen appliances, no air conditioning, no hot water, no fans or light fixtures, no washer/ dryer or laundry sink.   All these items are extra and the responsibility of the homeowner post-purchase.  My friend has been busy for the past few months shopping and arranging to have them installed.  Other additions she's made include crown molding, a custom, burglar-proof front door and security gate, decent paint in all the rooms,  construction of closets, and installation of vertical blinds and window treatments.  Once completed, she  will be able to address furnishings and design.  Another 15K, minimally, has already been spent since receipt of the keys.  But the unit is far from ready for occupancy still.

In 2006,  I stayed in a very nice 4-star hotel near the Panama Canal with balcony views of the ocean  & canal, for $ 89. a night.  Today that same accommodation is $ 158 a night and I couldn't be guaranteed the room I reserved will have the canal/ocean view.  It all depends on availability at the time of arrival.  Eight months ago,  a clean, secure, decent economy hotel room in the city center with hot water and air conditioning cost me $ 55 a night at the height of carnival season.  That same room is now $ 85.50 for the end of the tourist season. 

In 2008, a partial-transit Panama Canal tour cost under $ 80 per person. Today that same tour costs $ 115 per person.   Prices for food and other requisite items for day to day living have also increased exponentially in comparison to  wages, and Panamanian's  as well as ex-pats  are feeling the pinch.  

Conceivably,  the costs I'm citing will still seem reasonable to most Europeans and North Americans.  But it bears noting that what seems reasonable at this time is unlikely to remain reasonable much longer.  Panama is no longer the bargain it once was.   And the tranquil beauty & laid back lifestyle previously attractive to so many foreigners,  likewise is being eradicated  in the interest of progress.

Is it time to head for other shores....?