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What does it cost to live in Panama? That’s the question I get asked most often. The answer is… it depends on where you live and how you live.
Some areas of Panama are much more affordable than others. If you live near Coronado or Panama City, you’ll pay more. I live in Boquete, Panama which is not the most affordable place in Panama, but it is much more affordable than living in North America or Panama City.
I’ve been tracking my living expenses since I moved to Boquete so I thought I’d share them to give you a realistic picture of what it costs to live in Boquete in 2017. Keep in mind that I live a modest lifestyle. My house is small. I drive a 2008 car. I don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.
In Boquete, like all other places, your cost of living will depend on your lifestyle choices. If you want to live in Valle Escondido or any of the other gated community, your costs will be much higher than other areas.
You can rent a house for $400 a month or spend $4000 a month. A few months ago, I saw a studio apartment advertised for $250 per month.
Boquete has a huge variety of rental prices, like most areas in Panama. Only you can determine if the price you are willing to pay is in an area you like. You probably will not need to spend as much as you think for a house you really like.
During the tour, we visit with a couple who lives in a fantastic furnished 2 bedroom on one acre with the Pacific Ocean right out their front yard – all for only $400 a month. See it in the photo to the right.
Affordable living is available in Panama if you know where to look! (we show you where during a Panama Relocation Tour)
I recommend that you rent for at least 6-12 months before you buy anything. That’s the only way you can really get to know an area.
Many people make the decision to only rent when they move offshore. Renting gives you a lot more flexibility. Rent is so affordable, it really does not make a lot of sense to buy. In Panama, it is easy to buy but it could take many years to sell.
When I moved to Panama, I paid $600 per month rent for a fully furnished 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath house on an acre with 100 banana plants, coffee plants, exotic flowers and a spectacular view. I could pay more.. but why? I had everything I need at an affordable price.
After living in Panama a few years, I purchased the house for $120,000 so I don’t have a rent payment anymore. And I don’t have any property taxes – every! My house insurance is less than $200 a year.
Seven years later, that same furnished house would rent for $695 to $795 today including includes all utilities.
You can eat at a Panamanian style restaurant for $4 – $5 per person. It’s hardly worth it to cook at home with those prices. Most high-end or expat-owned restaurants have prices similar to North America though.
I buy most produce at the Mercado (farmers market) or grow my own in my greenhouse. Produce prices are much cheaper than the United States and the quality is better too. For example, I recently bought 2 large sweet pineapples for $1.50. You can buy 4 Hass avocado for $2. I can buy 50 pounds of carrots for $6 or 100 oranges for $4.
In 2017, I spent an average of $650 per month on food including eating out. Some of this expense is for cat food.
In 2018 I anticipate that my food costs will go down because I will be growing more of my own organic food in my greenhouse.
I only use a cell phone in Panama. My data/talk plan is $16 a month. This is a huge savings over what I paid in Texas.
I use Skype to make calls to friends and family all over the world at $0 expense. I have a dedicated Skype number so anyone call dial that number and it rings at my house in Panama.
SHIPPING AND POSTAGE
Panama does not have mail delivery service to your house. I use Mail Boxes Etc to get mail delivered from the United States to Panama. It’s expensive at about $3 a pound to get Amazon orders delivered so I try to buy everything I need in Panama to save money. There are in-country courier services available too.
In 2017, I switched to a different international health insurance company and reduced my costs from $2100 a year to only $1900 a year with a $500 deductible and no co-pay. My insurance also covers up to $750 a year in medications but I don’t take any medications. This insurance covers me at any hospital or doctor anywhere in the world.
I could cut my health insurance costs in HALF if I had Panama ONLY health insurance then purchased travel insurance when I go to the United States or other countries. I may do that when it comes time to renew my health insurance in 2018.
Health care costs and health insurance costs are a HUGE savings over what it would cost me in the United States.
In 2017, I traveled to the United States several times because my husband got sick there. But, I did not include those travel expenses in the budget because prior to 2017 I had not been back to the United States in over five years.
I do have a miscellaneous category in my budget for travel, buying furniture, clothes, plants for my yard or other expenses that come up. If you come on a Panama Relocation Tour, you’ll get to see all the flowers on my property.
I rarely watch TV so I plan to drop cable TV in 2018. If I want to watch the news or TV I can use www.USTVNow.com
These were my monthly expenses in 2017:
|Rent($0) & House Insurance & Gardener||$145|
|Food & Eating Out||$650|
|CableTV & Netflix||$50|
|Internet & Cell Phone||$65|
|Electricity & Gas||$30|
|Water and Trash Collection||$5|
|Transportation (gas, insurance, maintenance)||$60|
|Postage and Shipping||$50|
|Clothes, Travel, Flowers/Plants and Misc.||$480|
|TOTAL||$1695 ($20,340 per year)|
Yes, You Really Can Live for Less in Panama
If you were renting a house for $700 a month, your monthly costs would be about $2400 a month. My neighbor lives comfortably on $1500 a month Social Security which includes his rent. And I know people who pay $2400 a month just in rent for a large 3-bedroom house in a gated community. There are a lot of choices in all different price points.
Some places in Panama are more affordable than Boquete. And some places in Panama are much more expensive than Boquete.
During a Panama Relocation Tour, I’ll show you a variety of different areas in a variety of different price points. Plus, you’ll get to meet people who live in each of these areas. Panama has a perfect place for you regardless of what your monthly budget is.
Whether you are relocating to Panama or just coming for a visit, here are some things you should do to make your trip a lot smoother.
LEARN SOME SPANISH
Even though a lot of Panamanians speak English in some areas of Panama and will be willing to help you with translations, it is better if you learn a few basic phrases and words before you arrive. A little Spanish and a big smile go a long way in Panama. If you have time before your trip to Panama, take an online course. I recommend the online training at www.WarrenHardy.com because you can learn the basics at your own pace with Warren’s video training. Or, you can get free Spanish language training at www.DuoLingo.com. (there is a free app for your phone for duolingo too). There are many Spanish language schools throughout Panama and private teachers too.
I have to admit that I am not fluent in Spanish but know enough to get by comfortably.
Some towns in Panama have a high concentration of expats. In those towns, much more English is spoken. But you cannot always count on every Panamanian you come in to contact with knowing Spanish so keep Google Translate on your smart phone handy just in case you need a quick translation.
PANAMA CELL PHONE
If your cell phone is unlocked, you can buy a Panama SIM card at the airport or near most hotels. Then you’ll have a Panama cell phone number. All Panama cell phone numbers are 8 digits. Land lines are 7 digits. I recommend Movistar cell phone provider because they seem to work best throughout Panama. You could also buy a cell phone in Panama and it will already be unlocked. It will be much easier for you to get in touch with hotels, car rental places, lawyers, etc, if you have a Panama cell phone number. And it will be easier for them to get in touch with you too if you have a Panama cell phone number. You can get a data plan and talk time added to your Panama phone for 1 day, 1 week or by the month. I pay $15 a month for my cell phone plan.
MUST HAVE APPS FOR PANAMA
It’s a good idea to bring a smart phone with you to Panama so you can use some free apps to help you get around or buy a Panama cell phone when you arrive. Load these apps on your phone:
WhatsApp is the preferred way to communicate in Panama. Everyone uses whatsapp in Panama! You can send text, send voice messages, share photos and even send video messages… all for free.. if you have wifi or a data plan. You can invite people on your contact list to also download whatsapp to their phone so you can stay in touch while you are in Panama. WhatsApp works all over the world.
Get the Uber App! Taxis are readily available, but the prices are all over the place. If a taxi driver sees that you are a tourist, they will likely charge you the “gringo” price. Instead, it is better to use Uber. With Uber, you will know exactly what the cost will be for your trip. There is no gringo pricing. Uber cars are much nicer and cleaner than most taxis in Panama. You can even request an Uber English speaking driver though it is not necessary because your drive will already know where you want to go. Uber is safer too because your fare is automatically charged to your credit card so you don’t need to pull out cash and hope the taxi driver will have change. Uber works well in Panama City but it is not available in the rest of Panama.
Waze is like Google Maps but works better in Panama. Waze will guide you to your destination with the most direct route to avoid traffic. Waze will also let you know if there is a traffic jam ahead then reroute you. Other people using Waze can comment on traffic in Panama but it will likely be in Spanish.
Google Translate. Unless you are fluent in Spanish, you definitely need to have the Google Translate App on your phone before you arrive in Panama. Google Translate allows you to type or speak words in your language then it will translate in to Spanish. You can see the words in Spanish or you can click on an icon to hear the words in Spanish. Just show the translation to the person you are trying to communicate with. You can also use the camera function in Google Translate to translate menus or other publications in to English.
Degusta can be used to find a restaurant and see reviews. The only problem is that it’s in Spanish only but you can still search for Italian, German, Vegetarian, etc restaurants to see what’s available and what the ratings are. You can check out their website at www.degustapanama.com
Unit Conversions. Panama uses the metric system. You can use the Conversion App to convert miles to kilometers, liters to gallons, etc. You need to know that in Panama, the maximum speed limit is 100km which is 60 miles an hour. Don’t speed. There are transit cops throughout Panama.
Skype. If some of your contacts don’t have WhatsApp, you can call them using Skype or they can call you if they have your Skype handle. It is much more affordable than international calls. You can do video calls with Skype and share documents too.
When you go to a restaurant, they will not bring your bill until you ask for it. “La Cuenta, Por Favor” By the way, a 10% tip is customary for meals in restaurants in Panama.
At stores the sales people will follow you around but they will not ask if you need help until you ask them to come over to help you.
Panamanians love to party – hardy – with loud music and dancing until the wee hours of the morning especially during Panamanian holidays. When you are looking for a place to live, if there are Panamanians living next door, you will likely get invited to all the parties. But if you’re not a party animal, who enjoys loud music, you may need to find a different house to move to.
Panama has two seasons. The dry season in Panama is is mid-December to mid-April and the rainy season is mid-April to mid-December. In the dry season there is less rain and more wind. In the rainy season there is more rain, but Panama does not get a lot of rain until October and November. It’s a good idea to have an umbrella handy during the rainy season especially. Even though Panama temperatures are consistent, the rains can put a chill in the air so it’s best to wear layers and bring a light jacket. Daytime temperatures at the coast are 90 degrees +/- 5 degrees. For every 1,000 feet increase in elevation, the temperature drops 4 degrees.
WORK WITH A RELOCATION EXPERT
No matter how much research you do about moving to Panama, you don’t know what you don’t know! That’s why it’s important to work with a relocation expert like Panama Relocation Tours. We can help you with your exploratory trip to Panama during our 6-day all-inclusive tour. Our driver will meet you at the airport and take you to our preferred hotel in Panama City where we get 50% discount. Then we’ll spend 6 days showing you popular areas all over Panama, introduce you to expats who have already moved to Panama, explain the various Visa options and introduce you to a trustworthy and affordable immigration attorney, plus you’ll learn:
• How to find a rental.. and things to watch out for
• Health insurance companies – little tricks to save you 30% or more
• How to get BIG discounts on many purchases in Panama
• CPA’s with expat & Panamanian experience
• Meet with Attorney to learn about visa options and business structures
• Shipping and moving companies (Tips for saving money, too)
• What it takes to start a business in Panama.. and which businesses are off limits.
• Pet relocation (my step-by-step guide for a smooth transition)
• Trustworthy real estate agents and property managers (they are hard to find)
• How to get online orders (Amazon) and other mail delivered to you
• Selling on Amazon – Without touching products
• The best way to take title to a property if you decide to buy
• International Schools – things you need to know
• How to send and receive faxes without using a fax machine
• We will help you set up an Offshore Bank Account in a few hours!
• Typical costs and budgets in various areas (there’s a big difference)
• How to get phone calls to/from your country in Panama… for free
• How to bring a gun in to Panama and get a permit (or buy one here)
• Learn How to Fund Your Life Overseas… Little Ways to Make Big Money
• Step-by-step CHECKLIST of things to do BEFORE you move to Panama
• Best place to buy or rent a car
• and MUCH more.
All this and NO SALES PITCHES! We do not sell real estate so you don’t have to worry about high pressure sales tactics. In fact, we highly recommend that you rent for at least 6-12 months before you even think about buying real estate in Panama.
We don’t sugar-coat living in Panama either. During the tour, you’ll learn the good and the not so good so you can make an intelligent decision about relocating to Panama.
Our #1 objective is to help make your relocation to Panama as stress-free and smooth as possible… with no surprises when you make the move.
NO ONE knows more about Panama than we do!
During out 6-day Panama Relocation Tour, you’ll learn what you need to know to make a smooth transition to relocation to Panama. You’ll learn how to improve your lifestyle with less expense and less stress! And, by the end of the tour, you’ll know if Panama is right for you.. or not.
Don’t take our word for it, read what previous tour clients have to say:
Thanks Panama Relocation Tours for putting together a stress-free itinerary which totally surpassed our expectations.
For anyone considering an exploratory trip to Panama, Jackie Lange’s Panama Relocation Tour is a must! The 6 day trip took us through so many different living environments from expat communities in Coronado, to homes in Las Tablas and David to our final stopping point in Boquete and Volcan.
On the trip you get a chance to experience what to expect living in different regions of Panama sampling weather, costs and variety of food, typical shopping experiences and housing offerings. The tour is comprehensive encompassing everything from the nuts-and-bolts to moving to Panama, tax considerations, how and why to hire an attorney, insurance considerations, opportunities for expats and so much, much more. Tour recipients leave with plenty of great documentation to refer to after the trip.
This is so much more than a bus trip with stops in different parts Panama. It’s an experience that convinced us that the people and the country of Panama is a place that my wife and I will return to again for a much longer stay (if not permanently)!
I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this trip to anyone who’d like to explore the possibility of relocating to Panama.Panama Relocation Tours has it all and more!
David and Rhonda Grover
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I just returned from Jackie’s September Tour and it far exceeded my expectations! She is so down to earth, informative, and knowledgeable for people wishing to relocate, visit, begin a business, or simply invest in Panama. Jackie speaks from experience. She has done everything she recommends. Her classroom is a tour bus, hotel lobbies, restaurants eating chips and salsa, coffee houses, and chatting with others. I learned so much about life, investing, living, and streamlining my life. I was walking in Boquete (Panama) looking to get my teeth cleaned, she pulled up in her car and said “hop in I’ll take you there!” She didn’t have to do that. It is just the way she is. The tour inspired me to write a book, hire a virtual assistant, expand my businesses, and rent some new places in Panama to get started! Jackie is a resource who will be by your side every step of the way. Her help doesn’t stop when the tour ends, it will last as long as her clients need to get started in Panama. Jackie is a mentor and a role model for me. Thanks, Jackie, for all you do.
When you’re considering moving overseas there is a lot of research (and dreaming) involved. You’ve probably read a lot about Panama. You may have watched 100 youtube videos about Panama. Maybe you even attended a conference about retiring overseas. These things are all great.
But when it comes time to get serious about making a decision to move to Panama, you really need to come see Panama for yourself to know what it’s like. You need to have “boots on the ground” and kick the tires so to speak.
♦ You need to see Panama up close and personal.
♦ You need to meet other foreigners who have moved to Panama
♦ Enjoy the warmth of the coastal areas – take a stroll on the beach
♦ Experience the majestic mountain views & spring like weather in the highlands
♦ Check out the abundance of food available at a farmer’s markets
♦ See first-hand how friendly and welcoming the Panamanian people are
♦ Check out grocery stores to see if they have the items you need
♦ Visit pharmacies to see what the cost is for medications you take
♦ Meet with an immigration attorney to get details about Visa options
♦ See rental properties to see what’s it’s like to really live in Panama
♦ Learn what you need to do to make a smooth transition to living overseas
During a Panama Relocation Tours, you’ll do all this and much much more.
Relax! Instead of trying to plan a trip to Panama on your own, let us take care of everything for you. We’ll make all hotel arrangements, select restaurants for 3 meals a day, arrange for you to meet with expats in various areas, our bi-lingual driver will meet you at the airport when you arrive, We even help with pre and post tour planning, we provide ground transportation in our private luxury bus. And we provide an in-country flight back to Panama City after the tour.
While the bus is rolling from one location to another, it’s like a seminar on wheels. You’ll learn about visa options, finding rentals, getting huge discounts on health insurance, how to get a Panama driver’s license (and why you need to), how to bring your household goods & pets in to Panama, how to buy a car, how to open a bank account, and so much more.
Relax! Everything we talk about during the tour is already written down in a book so you can enjoy the scenery without taking copious notes.
We make it easy! All you have to do is sign up for a Panama Relocation Tour HERE and get your flight to Panama. We’ll take care of everything else!
We take the stress away!
You’ll learn about locations with every amenity you could imagine is available and English is spoken almost everywhere.
You’ll learn the pros and cons of each areas we visit. You need to know both sides to make an intelligent decision about relocating to Panama.
Relax ..while our professional driver is doing all the driving in our luxury bus so you can enjoy the scenery and take it all in.
And at the end of a 6 day all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour, you’ll know if Panama is a “yes” or “no.” You’ll know which community(s) pulled at your heart strings.
After a Panama Relocation Tour, you’ll know exactly how to relocate to Panama with confidence. You’ll know what you need to do to make a smooth transition in to living overseas.
What are you waiting for? We still have a few openings on our December tour. And the 2018 tours are filling up fast. SEE THE DATES HERE
Come see why so many foreigners love living in Panama and why we bet you will too!
To Life in Paradise,
P.S. Here’s what one of our guests had to say about the tour…
I went on the Panama Relocation Tour in June. Everything exceeded my expectations. The pre-planning by Melissa was complete & easy to follow. Jackie’s knowledge of Panama was extensive & very informational. The meeting with the attorney, hotels, food, lunches & dinners with expats, comfortable bus, safe & friendly drivers & the comprehensive book we brought home were excellent. I don’t think anyone could move to Panama without all of this information & experience. It would be too complicated & difficult. Even if you’re not sure if you want to relocate, the tour is a blast. So I highly recommend that you sign up for this adventure. For me, it was worth every penny of the cost.
June 2017 tour
P.S. Get updates about living in Panama on our facebook page at Facebook.com/panamarelocationtours