My Interview about the new Gringo Guide to Panama II

Kindle Publishing expert Shira Gal interviewed me earlier this week about my new book, The Gringo Guide to Panama II: More to Know Before You Go. As of yesterday, the book hit #1 in the Central America category on Amazon for Kindle!  Woo hoo!

Author Note, March 2016: As I was originally interviewed in 2014 during the time period I was using the pseudonym Elizabeth Vance, you’ll note that this interview, the conversation and the notes from it are using that name.

Gringo Guide to Panama: More to Know Before You Go book interview

(The timing of this interview is of course, very timely, as the e-book version of my new book is free today and tomorrow on

So many people ask me, how has your Panama lifestyle changed since you’ve become a best-selling author?

And, of course, lots of other questions about my new book. You now have all the answers – straight from the horse’s mouth – in one place!

Hear it for yourself…why do you need my new book?

Well, of course, you’ll have to listen to the interview. But here’s a recap of what Shira and I discuss.

  • What prompted me to compose the follow-up Gringo Guide to Panama II?
  • What topics are covered in the new book that those moving to Panama will find helpful?
  • How is this new book different from my first best-seller, The Gringo Guide to Panama: What to Know Before You Go that published in late 2012?
  • How has life changed since that first book published and became a best-seller?

How can you get the latest in the Gringo Guide to Panama series for your own?

What is life in the tropics of Panama really like?

What is life in the tropics of Panama really like?

That’s simple!

  • Today and tomorrow, the Amazon Kindle version is free!  Just go to Amazon, and download it on your computer, iPad, iPhone, Kindle or other device, and read away.
  • The paperback version – all 260 pages – can be purchased  by clicking here.

I love your feedback!

Consider this your formal invitation to let me know how you like this latest book. I welcome your input!

Special Thanks to…

First, to Shira Gal of, for the opportunity to interview with her!  Thank you, Shira! It’s been such a pleasure to benefit from your expertise in getting this latest book published.

Second, to those expats I interviewed and included in this book: Jennifer Luna, Skyler Ralston, Susanna Perkins, and  Jackie Smith. All with unique, compelling, not-to-be-missed stories for those considering a move to Panama or retiring in Panama.

Third, to my friends and family, who continue to be such a support of me sharing our lives globally via my books.

I wish you and yours the very best on your Panama journey, or wherever you may land.

Shopping in Panama: How it differs from your home country

Albrook Mall in Panama

Albrook Mall in Panama

Whether you’re visiting or have just moved to Panama, you’ll find there’s lots of shopping choices to satisfy most of your whims and fancies, no matter where you are from.

Panama City has no less than seven malls, which I’ll talk more about in a future post. Plenty of other independent shops in stand-alone locations or strip malls are located all over the city.

The malls are the most orderly shopping experience, which is why they’re the most obvious choice for most expats, especially those from North America who are more accustomed to orderliness and homogenization (including your brands like Banana Republic, Gap, Louis Vuitton, Asics, MAC, etc.).

While Panama tauts itself for shopping for many tourists, it is NOT necessarily the least expensive choice for you, if you come from North America. My family and I personally don’t do much shopping in Panama for most of our clothes and shoe purchases. Some of this has to do with taste. The local wares of the better-known U.S. and European brands are targeted to Latin American families, which is the bulk of the local market. I call much of what we see in the local stores and malls ‘tropicalized‘.

Different Market, Different Styles

For women’s shoes, for example, this may mean that the color palettes on offer are louder, brighter and more tropical. While flats have only recently become more mainstream in Panama, the styles and designs you’ll encounter are very different from what you’ll find up North.

Certainly in women’s clothing, the norm in the local market is also much more colorful than you might see in your local shops in Detroit or Denver. This is true for men’s clothing too, in some cases.

Can you save $$ if you shop in Panama?

Panama has popular brands like Bebe

Panama has popular brands like Bebe

In my family’s case, we’ve found that the same brands cost 20-30% more here in Panama than in the U.S. for the exact same products. A recent example if that a Black & Decker blender retailed for $130 in Conway. The same model online lists for $89. It’s important to remember that nothing is manufactured in Panama. Thus, anything shipped in has a big shipping price tag attached to it, which accounts for some part of that higher pricing.

There used to be a tax applied, as well, but in the case of goods manufactured in the U.S., we’re now no longer paying the import tax on items priced less than $100 this year, thanks to a benefit from the recent U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement.

Due to the price differences and the differences in our particular tastes, we find ourselves doing the bulk of our personal shopping for clothes and shoes on our trips back to the States.

Do I have to pay import taxes on stuff I bring back with me on my travels?

Lighting options in a local furniture store

Lighting options in a local furniture store

Panama allows travelers to bring up to $2,000 in purchased goods back with them on return flights without charging local or import taxes on those goods. Realistically, Customs never seems to check, so as long as you remove price tags, who’s to say that you didn’t buy those things on some other trip? (Maybe it would be obvious if they checked that you took two bags when you left, and returned with three, but currently, there’s little coordination or oversight of that type thing between Customs and the airlines.)


If you have not already purchased my first book, you can find more there about how your wardrobe will need to change when you move to Panama.

I’m currently working on The Gringo Guide II, which will publish in the next few months. In the new book, I’ll include details on all the shopping you can find in this fun little country, as well as profiles on the various malls and shopping centers.  (NOTE: The Gringo Guide II: More to Know Before You Go is now live on  Amazon.  Click here to get it.)

You Know You Live in Panama When…you move to Panama and…

Once in a while, I have a bad Panama day. When you move to Panama, you will have a day or two when everything culturally different collides around you with a bang, and all the idiosyncrasies of the country rub the wrong way.

It’s a day like thatwhen what I’d really like is to lose myself for an hour at SuperTarget, and drink a suburban Starbucks. (That’s my version of an island escape…)

But, that’s not the life we’ve chosen. We chose this quirky little country. So, to keep myself sane today, I’ve crafted a list of funny Panama things. It’s not quite Saturday Night Live, but well, here we go.

The Top Three of “You Know You’re in Panama…”

  • When it’s not necessary to pull off the road when a police car comes up behind you with flashing lights. Nope, you just keep driving. You can also pass a police car here, without fear.
  • When you see the local ladies walking down the street with their umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun. It’s a strange sight for a few years, then somehow it becomes cute.
  • When the workers who swore they would arrive no later than 6:30 a.m. show up closer to 10 a.m., without apology. (And never mind that you came in specifically to meet them, so the work would not impact your co-workers or your clients. Never mind that.)

Living in Panama as a foreigner requires a great deal of flexibility, patience and most importantly, a good sense of humor. Opportunities abound every single day to learn, to appreciate, and to laugh.

When frustration hits, which it will, get a copy of my  books on Amazon  to read more of these types of living in Panama realities.  (And you can read a few more quirky things that may get under your skin in the book too….and how to learn to relax!) The other seven from this list (which makes it a true Top Ten can be read in The Gringo Guide to Panama II: More to Know Before You Go which just came out on January 5, 2014 in paperback!)

At least, you’ll be able to laugh along the way.  With this little exercise, I’m smiling again!