When making a rental agreement, always make sure which expenses you will have to pay and which are included in the rent and have it clearly stated in the contract.
For safety, you should consider changing the locks on the property. You cannot know how many people might have a copy of your keys (workers, last tenants, etc).
You should be aware that as there isn’t an efficient public postal service, most of your utility bills will be delivered by a messenger, who will slide them under your door. There are many ways to pay for your utility bills, but one of the most convenient is Internet banking.
Power blackouts can occur, but in general the electricity supply is fairly reliable. So, especially if you have kids, you should keep candles or torch lights ready. You should also connect all your sensitive electronic equipment, especially computers, TVs or Hi-Fi systems to surge protectors. Some properties have back-up generators.
In Panama, the domestic supply is 110 V, 60 Hz, same as the United States. Plugs are the 2-pronged flat type.
Gas usage in Panama
Since electricity is quite expensive in Panama, gas is often used for cooking, heating your water and even for your drying machine.
In Panama City, the water supply is reliable and the quality is satisfactory for home consumption. After a big storm or floods, it is advisable to boil the water before drinking. In the rest of the country, water should always be boiled or purified.
You should also make sure that you have both cold and hot water before you sign any contract, as two water taps at a sink do not necessarily mean that you'll have hot water.
Domestic staff in Panama
As in many countries of Latin America, it is very common for middle and upper class families to have some form of domestic help.
The best way to find domestic staff is via word-of-mouth or go through an agency. You can ask your colleagues or friends for recommendations. Most domestic staff have a basic understanding of English.
You could employ a cleaner, who comes once or several times a week and is paid on a daily basis; or you could hire a housemaid, who lives with you.
You can also easily find a nanny (nana) to look after your children, or a gardener, driver and even a security guard.