Adventures in Renting 5: Finding a Las Tablas Rental

Cute Little House

Cute Little House

The most effective method I’ve found for finding a Las Tablas rental is simply talking to people. Here are some suggestions to amplify that, plus a really HOT TIP to make your rental search easy-peasy.

First, How to NOT Find a Rental in Las Tablas

1)    Make sure to restrict your search to the internet.
The first thing to understand is that the only rentals you will see online are put there by people charging a lot.  As to finding something by searching online, sure, you might.  But it will cost three to seven times as much as what you could find if you were actually in Las Tablas talking to people.  Because that is how it’s done here.  Talking to people.  The locals don’t advertise.  They just tell their friends, who tell their friends, etc.  Word gets out, and the place gets rented.  Particularly since places to rent are scarce, especially furnished places.

2)    Rely strictly on what you see advertised online or on the bulletin boards in the grocery stores or try to find a rental listed in a local newspaper.  There will be some houses advertised.  But mostly they won’t be ones you would want. Because that’s not how it’s done here.  Talk to people.

3)    Decide you are too shy to talk to anyone.
After all, your Meyers-Briggs score says you are an introvert and a very private person. You wouldn’t want anyone to actually know you were looking for a place to live, especially since that is how you will find a place.

4)    Decide since you aren’t fluent in Spanish you shouldn’t try to speak with the locals.
Some Tableños are fluent in English.  Some struggle with it.  And some know none at all.  But nearly all the kids study English in school, so nearly every Panamanian under sixty has at least six words of English that they are dying to practice on you.  Learn six words of Spanish and then you can grin satisfied, toothy grins at each other after exchanging your dozen words.  It does wonders for foreign relations, and just might help you find a place to live a lot faster.

5)    Start your search for housing in late January – early March, right before Carnaval.
Timing is everything.  The week before Carnaval all the hotels will be full and every square inch of the town will be rented.  Even people’s backyards and driveways will have been rented, to campers.  For that matter, arrive the MONTH before Carnaval and try to find something.  Alternately, you can thwart yourself by showing up in late October – early November just as all the snowbirds are landing.

The Key to Finding a Rental in Las Tablas

TALK TO PEOPLE.  Start in your hotel.  Talk to the desk clerk.  Probability is good that he or she speaks some English.  Here are some suggestions to help you find more people to talk with.

1)    Find the gringo bars.  At the moment, Ponchalos and xxxxx are in favor.  Go there in late afternoon and approach the expats.  They will very likely know of a few places to rent, and these will very likely be of the more expensive variety.  However, they will also be more likely to be to a gringo-trained taste.

2)    Go to a local bank and have a chat with one of the customer service people.  Several banks here in Las Tablas have personnel who speak excellent English, and these folks have always been friendly and helpful to me.

3)    Buy a phone chip and some minutes and chat up the personnel at Más Movil, Claro or Movistar.  Have the nice lady set up your mailbox while you ask her if she knows of anything to rent.

4)  You have to eat –chat up  the waiters and waitresses when you go to a restaurant.   Ask your waiter if he/she knows of anything for rent, or anyone who might know of anything for rent. Most of them have those six words of English they want to practice.

5)    Go to BOTH of the local supermarkets, Super Rosa and Super Carnes.  Linger in the aisles until you see another expat.  Chat him/her up and ask if they know of any vacant rentals.

6)    Ask one of these people to give you the name of a good local attorney.  Think of something you are going to need an attorney for eventually (Your pensionado application?  Buying a house?  Importing your pet parrot?) Call the attorney and explain that you are checking out the area and will need some help in the future.  And that right now you need help finding a place to live.

7)    Do the same thing with an insurance agent.

8)    If you have the least need for a doctor, find one and do the same thing.  If you go to one of the clinics it will cost you $10 and most of your day (in the waiting room.).  A specialist will cost $30 and most of the day (in the waiting room).

9)    Stop in at a few local pharmacies and have a chat.  Buy some eye drops or cotton balls or Panadol (Panama’s answer to Tylenol).

10) Take taxis – it’s $1.25 from almost anywhere in town to anywhere else.  Talk with the driver.


Hire Luis Garcia to find a place for you.  His rates are extremely reasonable, he’s reliable, and if he has nothing to show you, you don’t have to pay.  He also teaches Spanish.

BTW, there are NO gated communities in Las Tablas.  And if your objective is to deeply offend the Panamanians who live here, be sure you ask about gated communities.


This is the final article in our series on renting.  Number 5 was cancelled by executive decision.