Now that you’re living in paradise, I bet you’ll still want to take a vacation. The hubs and I sure do, but we kill 2 birds with one stone by taking ours every 6 months for visa renewals. The cost of living is much cheaper in Panama, but if you don’t do your research, your airline tickets for your vacation will be quite the opposite.
Direct purchase tickets through local airlines are exponentially more expensive for some reason. We would find specials on sites, but after all the fuel surcharges and other fees, we couldn’t believe it was a “special” in the first place. Feel free to check out the airlines that come through PTY here, I know we still do (just in case we do find a good deal one of these days).
Don’t despair, you can still use your favorite discount travel sites from the States. The hubs and I do research all the time for our vacations. There are even sites originating from Central Amercia too.
Since moving to Panama, we have discovered despegar.com. They are like the Latin American Expedia but we still end up going back to our favorites. We usually find the lowest airline ticket prices on one of these three sites: travolecity, expedia, and our favorite, kayak. We seem to always find the best prices on kayak, but it’s usually neck and neck for prices. There are a couple of discount ticket sites that don’t work for PTY as the departure code, but I don’t remember them off the top of my head.
We don’t book a hotel through those sites either. We use VRBO. You will be amazed at the deals you can get and yes, there are vacation condos and homes for rent outside the states! You can usually find anything from a studio up to a home that sleeps 12 – 16 people. VRBO is great because there is feedback on the site so you can get the 411 on a vacation rental.
All in all, I think you can still get a cheap vacation just like when you were departing the states. It just might take a little more researching and planning. For our next vacation, we’re considering Bogota, Colombia for 30 days! The cost for a hotel and tickets for a week’s stay was just a couple hundred dollars off from staying a full month. Now we can really get to know the city and check out all the sites! I’m thinking these month long vacations might become a theme for us very soon.