I ran across this article by Panama Relocation Tours.
I have mentioned these folks in the past because of their many happy customers. (If you book a tour, use my affiliate link please https://panamarelocationtours.com/?ref=7) They also write a lot of good information, and what they say seems credible and sensible.
So, do you want to bring all your stuff to Panama? Your life here will be different. Almost everyone I know says they ended up not needing or using a lot of the stuff they brought. You will have a new and different life and activities, and a lot of your stuff won’t be suitable and/or won’t do well in this tropical climate.
The article says that most rentals are furnished. This may be true in some areas, but I here in David it’s much easier to find unfurnished rentals because of the less transient population. But, it is true that you will need to find a rental that’s suitable for your furniture and other items. If you replace furniture here, it’s expensive. You are unlikely to find used furniture sources, and good quality US type furniture costs probably as much as in the US (though not sure, I didn’t buy new furniture there). But, local furniture is more likely to be suitable for this climate, and will still be cheaper than spending thousands to ship furniture. And, there are many artisans who can custom make furniture items to your exact specifications which is useful, fun, and supports these local, hard working people.
We sprung for a comfortable sofa for relaxing at night, and new mattresses. Otherwise, except for our custom living room tables, we have plastic tables, perfect for our lives. If they need cleaning you can scrub them with a brush and Comet (or locally available equivalent). They aren’t bothered by water, humidity, or termites and if we really ruin them, replacements are economical. We upgraded some of our $12 plastic yard chairs to better looking $25 chairs, but they are still plastic and suitable for our lifestyle and climate. Our home doesn’t look “fancy” but it suits us and our lives, and is easy to afford and maintain.
It is recommended that you NOT ship a car here. It’s takes time and there are expensive fees. I haven’t done it myself so I have no first hand experience, but from what I understand even the jubilado residency doesn’t save you from a lot of the fees associated with importing. Anyone who knows more than I do feel free to chime in. And, once your car is here, it will need maintenance. Even the same brand and make of car may be different from the ones here which will make finding parts challenging. It’s so much easier to just get something here. You can find a good selection from little economical cars to big SUV’s in familiar brands, from used to new. Save yourself the time and headaches, and get a car here.
Pets, however, may be worth bringing. There is a process of vet certifications and time sensitive documents, and airline regulations, but many people have brought their pets are happy to have their 4 legged family members with them here. Of course this lifestyle and climate may also be a big change for your pets, so keep that in mind when making your decisions. If you want to get a pet here though, there are many many good dogs and cats who need homes.
So, in the end, what you move is a personal decision. We sold/gave away/trashed pretty much everything we owned except for Joel’s musical stuff and some tools. Even many of the tools don’t get used in our different life here, but the musical equipment was definitely worth shipping. There is minimal selection here and the prices are high. But, in general, you can get pretty much everything here. These people have lived here for generations, and have attractive homes and comfortable lifestyles, and you can too.
I think the best advice I have heard, if you can’t decide what to do, is to put your stuff in storage and live here for a year or more. Then you will still have your stuff, but a much better idea of what you want to bring to Panama.