How to Plan Your First Expat Scouting Trip

(Continued from How Do You Plan for the Unknown?)
scouting the territory
So you’ve decided to move to another country, you’ve done tons of research, and you’ve narrowed down your country choices. The next step is a big one — scouting out your country of choice.

Ideally, you’ll be able to spend two weeks to a month exploring the country.

The purpose of this first trip is not to buy real estate or arrange a long-term rental. This trip is to find out whether you like the country and its people, and whether you can see yourself living there. You’re going for the broad overview.

Based on what we’ve read and seen online, my husband and I are pretty comfortable with the idea of Panama. Our spring trip will tell us whether we’re still comfortable once we’re on the ground there.

We’re already sure that living in Panama City is not for us, so we’ll head out of town right away. Our two big stops will be David and Las Tablas. Spending a few days in each, we’ll explore the surrounding area.

And, as I mentioned before, we’ll be doing it on a very tight budget.

Planning the Trip

Planning a trip like this takes work. It’s not as simple as just going online and booking a travel/vacation package, or even calling a travel agent to do the heavy lifting.

Booking flights is the easy part.

To get the best rates, book as far ahead as you can. Budget Travel recommends making your reservations in the middle of the week to take advantage of the fare cycle.

If your flight is a long one, you may want to plan a night, or even two, in a comfortable hotel to acclimate to your new surroundings before jumping in with both feet.

Since Panama’s only a three-hour flight for us, we plan to hit the ground running. (Actually, my husband will hit the ground running — I’ll be there a couple of days ahead of him for a Live and Invest in Panama Conference. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.)

After my husband’s morning flight, we’ll head out by bus to the city of David where we plan to stay for three days. It’s about a seven-hour ride, and we’ll get to see a lot of the country that way.

At $13, it definitely meets our “cheap” criteria.

Places to Stay

For this type of trip planning, traditional travel sites are not your best bet.

I’ve been using Google — a lot. Once I find a hotel, hostel or B&B that looks interesting, I look for reviews online. Websites like Lonely Planet can be helpful. They did have some reviews of lodging places in David, but they have none for Las Tablas.

Trip Adviser has a few reviews and links to Las Tablas establishments.

Since I’m not really satisfied with the information I’m finding online about lodgings in Las Tablas, I’m starting phase two of my investigations: I’ve connected with several English-speaking real estate agents in the area through LinkedIn, and I’ll email them and ask for recommendations.

I’m also posting questions in several expat forums online. Check out

I’ll let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, if you’ve been to Las Tablas and have some recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

Have you already enjoyed your initial scouting trip to your expat destination? Tell us about your advance planning.


  1. i’m looking forward to hearing about your scouting trip. when do you leave?

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