Condado del Rey—One Of The Nicest Panama City Neighborhoods You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
I’m asked almost daily, either through email or comments on the blog or site, where I think the best place in Panama is for a foreigner to start his or her new life. There’s no one answer to that question and usually I respond with a few questions of my own. First, when making this kind of decision, I can’t stress enough that you need to visit this country and check out some of the areas you’re considering before taking the plunge.
So many times people think they know where they want to live, just from seeing the beautiful photos tossed around online or reading reports such as this one. One expat couple I met told me how they came here sure they were going to move to Bocas del Toro. They were absolutely, 100% positive this would be the place for them. They visited Bocas and were shocked. It wasn’t what they imagined. They’d based their entire moving overseas plan on Bocas del Toro. So what now?
They ended up spending a week here driving back and forth from one town to the next, trying to find the place that made sense for them…and the scary thing was…they weren’t feeling it at any place. They just didn’t have that moment where they thought, “This is it. This is the place for me.” On their last day here, someone mentioned they should check out Pedasi. They took a trip out there to the sleepy beach town and instantly fell in love. And that’s where they eventually settled down.
There’s a place for every person in Panama. But each person needs to come here and feel that gut feeling about a place.
What three questions do I always ask before trying to help people decide what place in Panama might be best for them?
1: Do you want to live in Panama City or a smaller city? Or are you imagining your new lifestyle being somewhere on or near a beach or high in the mountains? Panama has a little bit of everything, but you need to have some idea what lifestyle option you’re shooting for. The good news is, here in Panama, you can live on the beach and be super close to the mountains and Panama City.
2: Do you want to live near other foreigners? Is a life surrounded by like-minded expats what you’re looking for? Or do you want to be in a smaller town with only local Panamanians around?
3: What kind of budget are you playing with? There are extremely affordable places to live in Panama and there are some that would easily rival some of the most expensive parts of the United States, Canada, the U.K., Venezuela, etc.
I’m mentioning all this because I’ve written a couple of times in blog posts about how I miss certain restaurants and stores from the United States. I love Panama and I don’t want it to become just another U.S. However, I do start to get homesick every once in awhile, so I admit that I get a little bit excited when I see a Papa Johns or a Carls Jr. pop up somewhere. When I write this, I always get a little bit of feedback from the expats not wanting this stuff to come to Panama. Some people have moved here to get away from the commercialized U.S. They love not seeing a McDonald’s anywhere near their small town.
Condado del Rey, the subject of this PFR Location Report is not a cut off, small-town lifestyle. It’s a serene and tidy neighborhood on the outskirts of Panama City, but with modern shopping centers and lots of restaurants, many of which you’ll be very familiar with. This isn’t the place to move to if you want to escape everything that reminds you of home…wherever that may be.
Where is Condado del Rey?
If you’ve headed out to the interior of Panama, over the Centennial Bridge (remember there are 2 bridges that take you out of the city, the other is the Bridge of the Americas), you’ve definitely passed Condado del Rey, but you probably had no idea. Just before escaping the city, you see the brand new Centennial Plaza on the right hand side, with recognizable haunts like Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, and Dairy Queen. Technically, that plaza is in Cerro Patacon, but with a side street that leads to the tucked away, somewhat hidden neighborhood of Condado del Rey, I consider these two areas one and the same.
To get to Condado del Rey, you can either take Avenida Ricardo J. Alfaro, better known to locals as Tumbo Muerto, until you get to the corner where the brand new Hewlett Packard (HP) building is. You turn right at that light and enter the neighborhood. If you’d kept going straight on Tumbo Muerto, and turned right to head up onto the street that takes you towards the Centennial Bridge and to the interior, you’d pass the new Centennial Plaza. The first street on the right, between the plaza and the gas station also takes you into the neighborhood.
Once you enter Condado del Rey, you find a world full of gated communities, both single-family homes and towering condo buildings. Deeper into the area you’ll find single-family homes that aren’t inside of gated communities, but even these homes seem heavily guarded as police cruisers constantly lap the neighborhood, making sure all is in order.
What’s this place all about?
Call me crazy, but something about Condado del Rey reminds me of San Diego, California. I think it’s just the rolling hills that surround the community. The only thing missing is the beach, since Condado del Rey isn’t right on the water. Then again, most parts of San Diego aren’t right on the water. And just like with its Californian cousin, the ocean is just a short drive away.
When you first enter Condado del Rey, from either direction, you’ll see a lot of construction going on. One of the greatest things about the area is the opportunity that still exists. You’ll see rental space available in nearly all of the shopping plazas and new office buildings, plus new ones are being built constantly.
On Tumbo Muerto, near the entrance to Condado del Rey, I just saw the sign go up for a new Dunkin Donuts, and a Carls Jr. is on its way too. With most of the units next to these restaurants still vacant, who knows what might show up next. And if you’ve got ideas to start a business, finding a location won’t be a problem.
Same goes for housing. New condos are going up all over the place and there’s still availability in the ones already built.
I said at the start of the Condado del Rey video, and at the beginning of this article, that this is one of the nicest Panama City neighborhoods you’ve probably never heard of. I think that’s an accurate assessment as Condado del Rey is no horded secret, but it’s definitely not mentioned as often as tourist and relocation hotspots like Coronado, Boquete, and El Valle de Anton. When people mention places to live in the city you usually hear El Cangrejo, Marbella, Punta Pacifica, and then on the outskirts you’ll probably hear Costa del Este, which I even reported on in an earlier PFR Location Report. But it’s rare that you’ll hear someone mention living in Condado del Rey.
This isn’t a place that’s mentioned all over the Internet. To hear about Condado del Rey, you need to be here in Panama, with your feet on the ground and your ears open to public conversation because Panamanians know about it, and many are calling the place home.
My daughter just told me the other day that two of her friends live in Condado del Rey. One is a Panamanian friend and the other is a Venezuelan friend. I have a Venezuelan friend living in the area and I know at least one American living in the area. It seems to be a place where a perfect blend of middle to upper income foreigners and Panamanians are living.
The streets are clean, other than at the beginning of the neighborhood, where there’s a lot of construction going on and lots of garbage strewn across the ground. As you get deeper into the neighborhood, you don’t see that garbage. The hedges are trimmed, the grass is mowed, and it’s common to see workers tidying up the place.
Most of the neighborhoods in Condado del Rey consist of single-family homes. The ones lining the streets of the neighborhood back behind the main drag range from common houses to huge and extravagant ones. You’ll also see a variety of private communities with secure entryways. Even the condos in the area come with guarded entryways, where visitors can’t even enter the parking lot without authorization.
In most of these private communities, both the homes and the condos, you’ll find swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms, and playgrounds. People walk the neighborhoods trying to stay in shape, or walk their dogs. It’s the type of lifestyle you may be used to in whatever country you’re from.
Like in Costa del Este, I don’t imagine a person would be hit with that culture shock some might experience when moving to one of Panama’s smaller towns with narrow streets, locals who all seem to know each other, and shopping done in small mini-supers. This is a bigger world tucked into a small container.
The electricity, like anywhere else in Panama City, is as reliable as Panama electricity can be. I’m sure that from time to time you’ll experience power dips and outages while power lines are being worked on. That happens in any part of the city. Water is drinkable from the tap.
Internet is high-speed, you can get cable TV with many English channels or go with satellite TV, and Smart Phone/Blackberry service is reliable. Since most of the homes in the area are within gated communities, you can expect to pay maintenance/HOA fees, which will vary with each neighborhood.
Getting things done
You can accomplish most things you’ll need without having to leave Condado del Rey. I saw branches for most banks right in town, all with ATM machines, so getting access to your cash won’t be a problem. I saw two Banco Generals, a Multibank, BAC, Global Bank, St. Georges Bank, Scotiabank, and many more.
Finding a good florist in Panama City has never been an easy task, but I did see a florist in Condado del Rey.
And there’s definitely no shortage of laundry centers and drycleaners. It seems the going rate for having your clothes ironed (plancha in Spanish) is $.50 as signs hanging in most windows announced the special price. I’m not sure how that compares with what you may be used to back home.
Computer repair centers, an office supply store, and even a Mailboxes Etc. are located in Condado del Rey. This means you can set yourself up with a Miami mailing address and pick your mail and packages up right in Condado del Rey.
I even saw a relocation center. I don’t know anything about the place, so you’ll need to do your due diligence, but here’s the front of their office with the contact info.
I didn’t see a school in Condado del Rey, but I did see school buses making their way around the neighborhood. And with Albrook and Clayton nearby, both with some of the area’s best schools, it would be easy to send your kids to one of these schools. I did see a math specialization class, a modeling class, and a sign for a preschool.
This is also an area full of some of the city’s best universities. You’ll find Universidad Tecnologica de Panama near the Centennial Plaza, and right around the corner from Condado del Rey, you’ll find Santa Maria la Antigua and Universidad Latina.
Barber shops, beauty salons, and spas are everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE. I don’t know how any of them make money. Make sure you watch our Condado del Rey video to see what I’m talking about. It’s nuts.
One of the great things about Condado del Rey is its close proximity to downtown Panama City and its excellent, top-notch hospitals there. But who wants to drive to downtown Panama City for every doctor visit? In Condado del Rey, you won’t have to. I saw several clinics, and not just the regular general practice doctors either.
I saw hand and foot specialists, orthodontists and dentists, laboratories, optical clinics, and plenty of pharmacies.
You’ll even find several places to take your pet for medical attention. I love this Vet clinic in the photo below that’s shaped like a giant dog. In addition to this place, you’ll find two Melo pet clinics and pet supply stores, plus an American Pets store.
With three major supermarkets in the area (Rey, Super 99, and Xtra) grocery shopping is a breeze. And these are some of the nicest supermarkets around. The Rey at Centennial Plaza has huge, wide open aisles. The store is gigantic. I actually felt a little bit overwhelmed the one time I went grocery shopping there. With Super 99 and Xtra in the area, you have the ability to pick up groceries at a bargain, as Xtra is considered one of the least expensive supermarkets in Panama.
Plus, with mini-supers and fruterias all over the place, you should never be forced to leave Condado del Rey just to pick up some groceries. You’ll even find a fresh market in the area, where you can pick up everything from tomatoes and garlic to mangoes and papaya.
The nearest mall would be in El Dorado, but with the Corredor Norte so close, driving to the major indoor mall at Albrook or even Metromall way on the opposite end of the corridor, would be very easy.
Shopping in the town itself consists of mostly small boutique clothing stores and party supply stores. You’ll even find a couple of stores that focus on selling work uniforms, like medical scrubs, and a business supply store.
Panafoto, an electronic store is located in the Centennial Plaza. At the entrance to Condado del Rey, you’ll find a Discovery Center store, which is one of my favorite places to shop in Panama. I’d say that it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a Walmart here.
You’ll also find just about anything you need to build a home or maintain one. At Casa de Meteriales you’ll find construction materials, plus the Do it Center, which is like a mini-Home Depot is located in the Centennial Plaza. At Lumicentro you’ll find lighting and ceiling fans, plus Condado del Rey is home to many specialized curtain, flooring, bathroom and kitchen, and hardware stores. You’ll find at least two paint stores in town as well.
And if you’re in need of some new wheels, you’ll find a bicycle shop, a scooter store, and even a Kia dealership. So buying a new ride, of almost any sort, can be accomplished without even leaving Condado del Rey. Then, once you have your new ride, you’ll find two gas stations, a car wash, and even a tire center right there in town.
If you just want to make some extra cash and you’re legal to work here in Panama, you’ll find two employers that are usually eager to hire English-speaking employees. Both of these places are on the corners as you enter Condado del Rey. Hewlett Packard is usually looking for English-speaking phone techs and customer service professionals. Sitel, which is one of the major call centers here, is also usually looking for customer service representatives, collection experts, and sales gurus.
If you’re someone who loves to stay fit, you’ll find that Condado del Rey is a great place for an active lifestyle. It’s an easy place to walk around, unlike most of Panama City. The sidewalks are great. Plus, this place is home to several exercise centers. I saw martial arts studios, crossfit, and other gyms.
You’ll even find a ballet studio and other dance classes in Condado del Rey.
When it comes to getting things done in Condado del Rey, most things can be taken care of in town. This is a very self sufficient community, but with Panama City encircling this tiny town, the opportunity to get out and find new shopping, new restaurants, and all other sorts of places to make your new life easier, is just around the corner.
What’s there to do in Condado del Rey?
You won’t find much in the way of entertainment in Condado del Rey. Playgrounds, basketball courts, and soccer fields are some of the things you’ll find in the area. If you’re planning a kid’s birthday party, you’ll find at least three party salons.
Plus, a really cool science and art center for the kids is located in Condado del Rey. It’s called Explora and it’s a place a lot of the schools in the area frequent for field trips.
If you crave a great and hoppin’ nightlife, you won’t find one in Condado del Rey, but remember, you’re very close to downtown Panama City and it’s great nightlife, bars, restaurants, and movie theaters. In Condado del Rey, you’ll mostly find restaurants, some with bars, but no major discos and nightclubs.
PesKito has probably the hottest nightlife scene. The place is always packed on the weekend as it has a cool bar & grill kind of vibe, plus it has a huge outdoor patio area where people like to hang out, listen to music, and drink beer. You’ll also see people make their way over to the few small outdoor dining spots that line the road next to the PesKito parking lot.
Condado del Rey is close to El Dorado, an area that has a couple of casinos and nightclubs. I hung out with some friends one night at the PesKito for a couple of hours. When we got bored we just made our way over to one of the casinos in El Dorado.
As far as restaurants go, you’ll find just about every kind of cuisine you can think of in Condado del Rey. Chinese food, Creole, Venezuelan, Mexican, Italian, and of course, Panamanian. Plus, chicken wings, pizza, sushi, delis, and several fast food chains you’re sure to be familiar with.
If you like sweet treats, Condado del Rey is home to several frozen yogurt restaurants, a smoothie and wrap place, an ice cream shop, and even a bakery that specializes in cookies and cakes.
And if you just want to chill out and unwind with a cup of coffee, I saw several cafes in town, including the one in the picture below, which is located in the Centennial Plaza.
And with Momi, a popular bakery nearby, and even a McCafe now inside of the McDonald’s, stopping for a quick snack while running errands is easier than ever.
I’m not sure that I’d call any of Condado del Rey’s downsides real flaws. They’re just things you’ll need to get used to. For example, I hate the fact that when leaving the area, you can’t just simply make a left turn (if you need to head in that direction). Cones block the left turn, meaning you’ll have to turn right at the exit, then make your way into a jug-handle like turn, then a second turn, just to head in the opposite direction. It’s kind of a pain, especially at times of high-traffic. But it’s not something that would stop me from living in the area.
You’ll find speed bumps all over the place in Condado del Rey, but then again, speed bumps are a good thing, and these ones are more rounded and smooth than some of the others you might see in Panama City, making them easier on your car.
The worst thing about Condado del Rey is the traffic getting into and out of the area. During rush our it’s a nightmare. Traffic anywhere in Panama City is horrible during rush hour. So as long as you plan your trips out of the area wisely, you’ll be fine. Plus, Condado del Rey has almost everything you’d need, right there in the community, so you may not even need to leave all that often.
What does it cost to live there?
I did some research on the area and what I found is that single-family homes seem to start at around $250,000 and rent for around $1,700 per month and up. The condos, 2 bedroom, start at around $130,000 and rent for as low as $1,000 per month. I found one rental unit for $900, but the majority seemed to be around the $1,200 per month range. I set the rent in the budget you see below at $1,000 because I did see several in that price range.
I like to compare Condado del Rey to Costa del Este, because to me the two areas are very similar. Costa del Este is a little bit nicer and most places have incredible views of the ocean, but Condado del Rey is a very close 2nd as far as comfortable living goes and it’s a little more affordable. I set the food costs in Condado del Rey at $350 per month (was $400 in Costa del Este) because unlike in Costa del Este, in Condado del Rey you have the option to shop at the new Xtra supermarket (an affordable shopping alternative) and the Super 99.
Take a look at the budget I put together below, and remember, every person’s lifestyle is different. You might run your air conditioner all day long and see the electricity bill skyrocket and you might not travel at all, saving money in that area. You might not go out to eat often and might not spend any money at all on entertainment. If you want a maid or a gardener, you’d obviously need to tack on the price for those services. This budget should give you a fair, average estimate. You can play around with the numbers to match your needs.
Monthly budget for a couple living in Condado del Rey, Panama (City)
Rent 2 bedroom condo, houses start at about $1,700 $1,000
Electricity AC can make this higher if you're not careful $250
Gas For cooking and dryer (2 small tanks) $10
Telephone/Internet/Cable Package deal $45
Phone card for calling the U.S. (if you don't use Skype/MagicJack) Telechip International, for 5 hours talk time $5
Food For 2 people $350
Entertainment Most of this cost would come from dining out as there's not a lot else to do in the area $200
Routine Doctor Visit Once per month for each person ($25 each) $50
Medication Varies, but for my monthly high blood pressure and diabetes meds this is what I'd pay just to give you an idea $45
Getting around town Buses and taxis $20
Travel outside of town By bus $40
Extras Other things you may need $50
Total Monthly Expenses For 2 people $2,065
My overall gut
I’m no real estate expert or financial forecaster, but I honestly think Condado del Rey is on the fast track to being one of the hottest places to be in or around Panama City. There’s just so much opportunity and with its close proximity to the Corredor Norte, getting to the Albrook Mall or to downtown Panama City would be easy.
Plus, living in Condado del Rey puts you right at the beginning of the trail that leads to the Centennial Bridge and to the country’s interior, so if you have the desire to ditch the city for a weekend, you’re well on your way already.
Traffic getting to Condado del Rey and out of the area would be my biggest concern. It’s nasty at most hours of the day. This is something you need to understand before moving there. As someone who spends probably a third of his day in Panama City traffic, trust me when I tell you it’s nothing to take lightly. It’s very frustrating. That said, Condado del Rey literally has almost everything you’d need, so unless you work outside of the area, you might not need to leave often. Just limit your excursions to the off-hours. Don’t plan trips during rush hour traffic.
Even the immigration building is just around the corner, so if you need to run out and take care of your paperwork, you can do that easily.
My overall assessment of Condado del Rey is that it’s a perfect medium for someone who is ready to leave the United States or whatever country he or she is coming from, but who maybe isn’t ready for the small-town life or the hectic hustle and bustle of the big city. If you’re looking for something that would be comparable to a nice suburb, this could be the place for you.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out the Condado del Rey VIDEO report here.
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