What is the real cost of living in Panama?

What is the real cost of living in Panama?
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Where are expats living in Panama?

There are foreigners in nearly every nook & cranny of this country, but the highest densities of expats are found in:

  • Boquete, Chiriqui
  • Volcan, Chiriqui
  • El Valle de Anton, Cocle
  • Coronado, San Carlos, Panama Oeste
  • Santa Fe, Veraguas
  • Pedasi, Los Santos
  • Panama City, Panama
  • David, Chiriqui

Some underrated locations include:

  • Sona, Veraguas
  • Penonome, Cocle
  • Tonosi, Los Santos
  • Chitre, Herrera
  • Las Tablas, Los Santos
  • Chepo, Herrera
  • Rio Sereno, Chiriqui
  • Cerro Azul, Panama

For the purpose of this guide, I will separate living in the urban jungle of Panama City and small towns in the less densely populated parts of the country.

The cost of living in Panama City (Ciudad de Panama)

Panama City has grown by leaps and bounds more than most other cities in Latin America, and is more comparable to Miami than cities in Colombia or Brazil. With that being said, most of Panama City probably does not have adequate living conditions for foreigners coming from Europe or North America – but there are some enclaves where those with remote jobs are thriving.

The capital city has an increased cost of living compared to nearby Latin American capitals, but has a degree of stability due to dollarization, local food production, and lack of currency liquidity (since Panama cannot print money).

Cost of living in Casco Antiguo

Renting an Apartment: $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

Food: $200-$500 per month. (Lower than the USA).

There is a local El Rey, with a rather large Machetazo nearby in Caledonia.

Ground beef can be between $2 to $3.50 per pound depending on leanness, and this price seems to change daily.

Papaya, probably one of the cheapest fruits in the supermarket, can get as low as 30 cents per pound when in season, and up to 80 cents in convenience stores or off-season.

Eggs are at minimum $1.89 per dozen, but can be up to $3 depending on size, brand, quality and demand. If you’re looking for certified organic, you will have a hard time. Los Guayacanes, from Cocle, eggs are the only one I know of.

If you take an uber to SuperCarnes, I highly recommend them for local produce, meat, eggs, cheese and coffee.

There is a local Subway right by the Catholic Church in Casco, and It’s approximately 25% more expensive than those you find in the US.

Internet: $40-$80 for high-speed cable/fiber internet

Gym: $0 to $30

Luckily, Casco Antiguo connects with the outdoor workout environment known as Cinta Costera. This features a paced walkway that will allow you to run, ride bike, ride scooter or rollerblade with a direct sea view. There are also outdoor gym installations, pull-up bars, soccer fields, basketball hoops and a brand-new tennis court alongside. For this reason, your gym costs could be $0 if these outdoor activities fit your workout plans.

If not, there are some gyms nearby Casco Antiguo. VIP Gym is within the neighborhood. Look for one of many SmartFit or Planet Fitness locations in the center of the city ranging from $20-$30/month.

Co-Working Space: $100-$300/month

There are several co-working spaces in Casco Antiguo catering to online professionals, digital nomads and remote workers. Some popular options are Pivotdesks ($150-$250/month), Workwise ($100-$225/month) and COWorking Panama ($125-$300/month).

Cost of living in Paitilla

Paitilla is an upscale neighborhood of Panama City known for its gleaming high-rise apartments, vibrant nightlife, and proximity to shopping and restaurants. It’s a very popular area for expats:

Renting: Expect to pay $1,200-$2,500 per month to rent a modern 1-2 bedroom apartment in Paitilla. Prices are highest for units with amenities like pools, gyms, and ocean views.

Groceries: Around $400-$600 per month for one person shopping at higher-end supermarkets like El Rey and Riba Smith.

Entertainment/Dining Out: With so many bars, clubs and international cuisine options, entertainment costs in Paitilla can be quite high - $300+ per month is reasonable if you go out regularly.

Transportation: An Uber across town is $3-$6. Many opt to have a car and parking in Paitilla for $100-$200 per month.

Cost of living in Brisas del Golf/San Antonio

These adjacent middle-class neighborhoods between Panama City and the Tocumen Airport offer a more affordable option:

Renting: Older 2-bedroom apartments or houses run $500-$1,000 per month. Newer apartments or townhomes $1,000-$1,500.

Groceries: $250-$400 per month shopping at neighborhood supermarkets like Super 99, Xtra, Rey Riba Smith, and Machetazo.

Entertainment: With fewer upscale options, entertainment spending could be $100-$200 per month eating out and going to movies.

Transportation: $50-$100 per month on Ubers and taxis to get around locally. A car is very useful for the area, plus $100-$150 per month for parking.

The cost of living in small towns in the interior of Panama

Living in smaller towns in Panama’s interior provinces can provide an extremely affordable lifestyle - if you’re willing to take on a bit more of the local way of life.

Cost of living in Penonome, Cocle (living like a local)

Penonome is a small agricultural town about a 2 hour drive from Panama City. Here you can truly immerse yourself in the local Panamanian experience for very low costs:

Housing: Rent a basic 2-bedroom home or apartment for $250-$500 per month.

Utilities: Electricity $30-$60, water/sewer $10-$20, internet/cable $40.

Groceries: Shopping at the town’s affordable produce markets and local grocery stores, expect to spend $150-$250 per month on food.

Transportation: An aging used car could cost $2,000-$4,000. Very little need for gas living in town - $20 month. Buses $0.50-$1 per ride.

Healthcare: High quality care available at public hospitals/clinics for $10-$30 per visit with cedula residency ID.

Entertainment: Dining out at the local fondas (diners) and cafes may run $5-$10 per meal.

With no mortgage/rent and growing some of your own food, a retired couple could easily live in Penonome on $1,000-$1,500 per month.

Cost of living in Boquete, Chiriqui (living in a tourist trap)

In contrast, Boquete is a major expat/retiree hub in the Chiriqui highlands known for its growing costs:

Housing: Rental homes start at $800 per month, but $1,200-$2,000 is more typical for a comfortable 2-3 bedroom house or condo.

Groceries: $400-$600 per month shopping at the higher priced supermarkets and organic outdoor markets aimed at expats.

Utilities: Around $150 per month for a couple’s electricity, cable/internet, gas.

Transportation: $200-$300 per month for a rental car or car payment, gas, maintenance.

Healthcare: Coverage through private hospitals or clinics could be $150-$300+ per month.

Entertainment: Plenty of expat-oriented restaurants, bars, art galleries, etc. Easy to spend $200-$400 per month on dining and activities.

A more realistic total budget for a couple to live well in Boquete is $2,500-$4,000 per month.

Cost of living in Pedasi, Los Santos

This beach town has grown in popularity recently for retirees and expats seeking a quieter coastal lifestyle:

Housing: $800-$1,500 to rent a 2-3 bedroom home, or $250,000+ to purchase.

Groceries: $300-$500 per month shopping at the local grocery stores, produce markets and buying seafood direct from fishermen.

Utilities: $100-$150 for a couple covering electricity, water, internet/cable.

Transportation: $100-$200 per month for gas/maintenance if you have a car, which is very useful. Minimal public transit.

Healthcare: Public healthcare is limited, so budget $150+ per month for private insurance or pay-as-you-go.

Entertainment: $100-$300 month for dining out, beach activities, fishing, other Pedasi attractions.

A total rough budget of $2,000-$3,500 per month allows for a very comfortable beachside lifestyle in Pedasi for a couple.

With its lower urban costs but lack of comprehensive public services/healthcare, the interior of Panama offers unique lifestyle options that can fit a range of budgets for expats and retirees.