Today, I received my Panamanian Pensionado identification. Let the discounts begin!!! It was always one of my goals to get Pensionado status, here in Panama during this trip. I was surprised how simple and quick it was to achieve, with the right help. We found a good lawyer who made the process quick, simple and painless.
Pensionado status here gives you the following discounts:
- One time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
- Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
- 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
- 30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
- 25% off at restaurants
- 15% off at fast-food restaurants
- 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
- 10% off prescription medicines
- 20% off medical consultations
- 15% off dental and eye exams
- 20% off professional and technical services
- 50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
- 25% discounts on utility bills
- 15% off loans made in your name
- 1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence
We are planning a little side trip to Cartagena in Columbia next month. A new overnight ferry runs from Colon to Cartagena two days per week so we thought we would try it out. We will be travelling with our niece so we booked a cabin on the ferry for the trips both ways. This was my first opportunity to use my Pensionado discount, so I presented my card and found that the fare dropped by about $100.00. Very nice! We went to the Hard Rock for lunch to celebrate but I forgot to present my card when the bill came so we did not get the restaurant discount. Oh well!
We discovered that Canadians entering Columbia are subject to a tax of $80.00 per head in retaliation for visa penalties imposed by Canada on Colombians visiting Canada. Thanks Mr. Harper! I think I should be able to use this as a tax deduction on my next income tax return.
On another front, we have been looking for a used vehicle to buy here. The cost of rental cars is extreme and the quality of those cars leaves much to be desired. I wrote a post on this blog explaining the difficulties we have had with maintenance. See it at https://jkeithhowie.com/2015/02/01/six-tips-for-renting-a-car-in-panama/
We have been following a couple of local websites where used cars are posted for sale but typically find anything of interest to be high mileage and older than we wanted to buy. Toyota has a big presence here and everyone we talked to has advised us that parts and repairs are easy to get for Toyota, while many other brands are difficult. We went to a used Toyota car lot and looked at a couple of vehicles. For our budget, they showed us a 2004 Toyota Prada, which is “The Car” here if you are into status symbols. It is a full-sized SUV and comes in both gas and diesel models. A new one will run you up to $80K. The 2004 that they showed us had about 150,000 kilometers and they wanted way too much money for a vehicle of that vintage. They also showed us a 2012 Toyota Rav4 AWD but it had almost 70,000 Kilometers on it and they wanted almost $18,000. Too many kilometers!
Eventually, we found an entry on one of the websites for a 2011 Toyota Rav4, 4 by 2, with 44,000 Kilometers at a decent price. We called and found that the owner could speak more English than he thought he could and after looking at the car, agreed to buy it. He was very helpful and even went to the Municipal Office and did the transfer into our name for us.
Obtaining insurance was not as difficult as we thought it would be. We were recommended to Kevin Bradley, an insurance broker, who spoke English. We were quoted insurance for a year at less than $400. It included coverage for both Panama and Costa Rica, road side assistance, ambulance, comprehensive, collision, liability, replacement rental car, loss of contents due to theft, towing, legal assistance at the accident scene and afterward. Oh, and the deductible is reduced by 50% if the driver is female or the accident is not your fault. Everyone we talked to at Kevin Bradley’s office closed the phone or email conversations with the phrase “standing by to serve you”. Cool!
So now we are finally mobile in our own vehicle.