Most people know little about Panama and are surprised to discover it is much more developed than expected. Visitors are surprised by the modernity of Panama and the shiny skyscrapers that soar above Panama City’s coast. The country has all the amenities one could wish for.
By living comfortably in Panama, you will experience the many benefits of a developing economy. At the same time, you can still book an Uber across town for just $5, have your hair cut for around $6, or dine in one of the many great restaurants in the country for only about $30. Does that sound good to you?
Your utilities will depend on which part of Panama you live in. While warmer coastal areas like Panama City, most expats will use air conditioning. For most mountain towns such as Volcan, Santa Fe, Valle de Anton, and Boquete, it will require much less electricity— many expats don’t need air conditioning since it is cooler. Your electric bill can be as little as $20. Your gas bill for cooking, hot water, and water and trash pickup are also very affordable.
Goods purchased from overseas, such as from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, will vary, with some much less expensive compared to the prices in the U.S., while others cost more. Fruits that are native to Panama, like mango, passion fruit, pineapple, papaya, and bananas, are the most abundant, and they cost amazingly cheap. Some supermarkets still sell imported apples, cherries, and blueberries, which will cost you more. You can find lots of fresh meat, produce, seafood, and dry goods at upscale supermarket chains such as Riba Smith and El Rey, as well as some stalls and specialty stores. Panama’s Super 99 supermarket chain is more affordable, thus perfect for low-income customers. They’ve got a great selection of grocery products and fresh produce.
Like most expats, you may also want to hire a maid to help you and it’s easy to find in Panama. The cost of having a maid in Panama depends on whether the housekeeper stays in the house or not. A full-time, live-in maid will cost you about $400 per month, while a part-time maid can cost you about $20 per visit.
Panama will always be there regardless of your budget or tastes. You can fulfill your needs with plenty of quality options.
I (Rod) live in a mountain town, and here is a list of my monthly utilities.
Rent – $600/month, 2-bedroom home in the center of Boquete.
Electric – $25/month
Water – $5/month
Garbage Pickup – $3/month
Cell Phone – $21/month
Internet (300 meg) $39/month
Healthcare Plan – $165/month – (100% coverage, $1000 annual deductible, for a 55 – 60 y/o)
Car Insurance – $300 per year! –for an older used model
Breakfast Lunch $3 – $5 (Panama Style)
Groceries – $300/month – I buy all fruits and vegetables from local growers and meats from local producers
A good bottle of wine, $7, 6-pack of beer, $4
When looking at rent, you can pay from $500 a month to $2500 or more. In the city, a downtown apartment will start at $800 and go up to a luxury one at $3000. At the beach, oceanfront apartments start at $800/month. Or, in a small beach town like Las Tablas and Puerto Armuelles, you can find 2-bedroom homes in Panamanian neighborhoods for $300/month and up. In the mountain towns like Boquete, a 2-bedroom house will cost $500 – $1000/month. So, the prices range depending on your needs and lifestyle.
Food can be much less expensive if you do not shop at North American-style grocery stores. I buy all my fruit and vegetables from local growers, who set up shops in stands nationwide. I purchase meats, chicken, and fish the same way. I save 50% in my food costs shopping this way and only go to the big grocery stores for those things I cannot find in the food stands. (M&M’s and ice cream 🙂 )
The true cost of living in Panama will decide how you want to live. Suppose you are brand specific when buying and want to avoid trying to speak a little Spanish to do some business with the local vendors or want to live only in a gated community with other expats. In that case, you will pay more here. However, it will still be less expensive than most North American and European larger cities.