In Search of the Elusive Rental Casa in Las Tablas, Panama

House in Las Tablas, PanamaWhen you’re in a part of the world that doesn’t have an organized real estate or rental market, finding a place to live is hard. You can’t just waltz into an agency and say, “I’m looking for a two-bedroom house to rent in a nice neighborhood with a fenced yard for my dogs.”

I’m here in Las Tablas, Panama, to find a furnished house that my husband and I and our small dogs can rent short-term while we look for a more permanent place to stay. Las Tablas is a small town, and there’s just not that much available.

Going online is not the solution here. Anything that’s listed will be at an inflated “gringo” price and we’re on a tight budget. Instead, it’s very much a word-of-mouth and who you know situation.

I tell everyone I meet that I’m looking for a house. A few people have made recommendations, most just nod politely.

There’d be a few more choices if I wanted to live at Uverito beach. I spent a lovely afternoon and evening out there last weekend visiting friends. I can totally understand its appeal. But I’ve ruled it out, for the time being anyway, because of the distance from town.

I admit I’m spoiled. I’m used to being able to scoot out to shops, stores and restaurants that are just a couple minutes away. We’re not good about planning meals because it’s been too easy to just run to the store for ingredients for whatever we’re in the mood for at the moment.

I also like to get out of the house just for its own sake. Since I work from home, I have to actively take steps to keep those four walls from closing in on me, and little errands are a good way to break up my day and get out briefly.

Since we plan to go without our own car for a time, Uverito is either a $7 cab ride each way, or a $1.25 trip on a very unreliable local bus which sometimes shows up and sometimes doesn’t. I know I would feel stranded and isolated there without wheels, so for now it’s out of consideration.

What does that leave?

So far, in the week that I’ve been looking, I’ve seen four houses. I quickly ruled out the first.

The second was very nice, and I’m definitely interested. In fact, the owner is supposed to be here from Panama City this weekend, and I’m hoping to meet with him to work out some arrangement.

But I can’t just twiddle my thumbs hoping that works out, so I’m still looking.

Yesterday I went to a little village called Santo Domingo. A Canadian snowbird has been renting a small house there, and he’s leaving the first week in April. It’s a possibility — pleasant enough, although a bit on the small side and farther out of town than I’d like. Still, there’s a reliable bus service (35 cents), and a cab is only $2.50.

Today I heard a rumor of another house in Santo Domingo, as well as a house just a few blocks from the hotel I’m staying at. I’ll be checking them out.

In the meantime, I’m getting mightily tired of hotel living. Even more, I’m getting tired of the same-old, same-old menu selections in local restaurants. I’m anxious to get into a place I can call my own.

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