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10 Ways to Live for Less in Panama

Live for Less in PanamaWhen I left the heat of Texas for the spring like weather in Boquete Panama I knew I’d save a lot of money by not using an air conditioner nine months out of the year.  And I was right.  Most houses in Boquete don’t even have HVAC systems because you just don’t need it with the average temperature of 75 degrees… every day!

You can retire in Panama on less than it would cost to live where you are now.  There are many ways to live better for less in Panama, including:

CARS – When my husband and I worked in Texas, we needed two cars.  In Panama, I have one car so that saves a lot of money.  My car insurance in Panama is only $223 a year.  I also save on maintenance, inspections,  etc. by not having two cars.  Gasoline costs about the same as in the USA but at least we’re not filling up 2 cars anymore.

CELL PHONES – In Texas I had a landline and a cell phone with a combined bill of $250 a month.  In Panama, I only have a cell phone and pay $30 a month which gives me plenty of talk time and unlimited data.  Using my cell phone, I can also make international calls for no additional fee. In Panama, most people use Whatsapp which is free for making calls or sending texts or voice messages.

INTERNET AND CABLE TV:  My house in Panama has fiber optics so I have 250mbps internet which cost me $64 a month and includes cable tv with 250 channels, many in English.   Unfortunately, fiber optics is not available everywhere in Panama… yet.  Some areas are only serviced by satellite internet which costs $99 a month for 5-10mpbs.  If affordable high-speed internet is important to you, definitely move to an area in Panama that has fiber optics.

DOCTOR VISITS – It costs $15-$20 to go to a general doctor in Panama.  If you see a specialist it is $40 – $50.  These prices are without insurance.   No appointment is usually necessary.  You just walk in.  If you’re too sick to walk in, the doctor will come to your house for an extra charge.  Try getting that where you live!

EMERGENCY ROOM – I had to go to the emergency room at a private hospital because I was having sharp pains in my right side. I was seen right away by a doctor who spoke very good English. Total costs for 2 IVs with pain medication, lab tests, and the emergency room was $48… without insurance.  If I had gone to a public hospital it would have costs even less.

HEALTH INSURANCE  – I had international health insurance which covers me in Panama, the United States, and any other country.  Total costs was $2500 per year at age 65.  I’ve had three eye surgeries in Panama City.  The doctor’s office filed the forms for insurance so I had zero out-of-pocket expenses.  Now, I have health insurance which only covered me in Panama, I’d pay $102 per month.  If you can’t afford health insurance, you can use the public hospitals where a doctor visit is about $2 and a specialist is $5 with no monthly fee.

Panama Vegetables Home GrownFRESH PRODUCE – Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available and very affordable.  My costs for produce are at least half what I paid in Texas.  The best prices are at the farmer’s markets throughout Panama.  Because the weather and soil are so good and there is a 365 day growing season, I’m able to grow much of my own produce so that saves even more.  See my garden harvest to the right.  An extra-large pineapple is about $1 each.  Today I bought six Hass avacados for $3.

FRESH FISH – Because Panama has the Pacific Ocean to the South and the Caribbean Sea to the North, you get a huge variety of fish at very affordable prices.  In Texas, I paid $30 a pound for sea bass.  In Panama, Corvina, sea bass, is $3.00 a pound… sometimes less.  Tuna, shrimp, grouper, amberjack, and other fish are all much cheaper in Panama too.

REAL ESTATE –  Real estate prices in some areas in Panama is just as much, or more, expensive than what it would cost in North America.  But there are certainly some areas where real estate is super affordable too!  A friend just bought a beautiful 2400sf furnished 3 bedroom 3 bath house that’s a 2-minute walk to the Ocean for only $225,000.  Most houses built before 2012 came with a 20 year tax exemption (no property taxes), compared to the almost 3% of value property taxes I paid in Texas. House insurance is much cheaper in Panama too!  I just renewed my house insurance for $115.50 PER YEAR!

guarare panama ocean viewRENTAL –  We highly recommend that you rent for at least a year before you start thinking about buying real estate.  In Panama City, some rentals can be more expensive than in North America.  But there are many areas in Panama where affordable rentals are readily available.  Most rentals come completely furnished and include all, or some, utilities.  When I moved to Panama, I paid $600 a month for my 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath fully furnished rental with all utilities included and a weekly gardener..on a large property with spectacular views.  Near Las Tablas, a couple is renting a furnished 2-bedroom oceanfront house for $550 – see their view in the photo to the right.  Furnished rentals range from $200 to $2500 per month depending on the size, amenities and location.

ELECTRIC BILLS – Electricity costs about the same per kilowatt in Panama.  In Texas, I paid $250 to $450 a month for electricity. In Panama, because I live in an area that does not need air conditioning or heating, my electricity bill is rarely more than $25 a month.  If you relocate to a coastal area, you’ll probably need to use your air conditioner sometimes but friends report that their electric bill is rarely over $150 a month.

WATER BILLS – In Panama, I pay $100 per year for unlimited potable water.  The water is not metered.  I also have agriculture water for my gardens which cost $10 a month.  In Texas, I paid $80 to $120 per month for metered water and had water rationing in the summer months.

LUXURIES –  Some things are so much more affordable in Panama so you can treat yourself to life’s little luxuries more often.  In Panama I pay only $35 for a one hour massage.  A mani-pedi is $25 in Panama.  A woman’s haircut is $6-$10 in Panama.  A man’s haircut is $2-$5 depending on where you go.  My gardener is $30 a day.  My housekeeper is $30 a day.   You can get a delicious Panamanian meal for $5 or go to a nice restaurant for $10-$25 per meal.

LESS STRESS – Because you can stop worrying about money, you’ll have less stress when you move to Panama.  Many who move to Panama have been able to get off their medications because they are not living in constant stress anymore.  When you relocate to Panama, you won’t be surrounded by constant political tensions and divisions – which also reduces stress.

FRIENDS – You’ll make a lot of new friends fast in Panama!  Because most of the other expats are also retired, you’ll all have time to “hang out” by volunteering at local charities, hiking, cooking classes, gardening, lunch/dinner, happy hours, painting or other art classes, bird watching, etc etc etc… you’ll finally have TIME to do all the things you’ve been wanting to do and new friends to join you!

A little savings here
and a little savings there
all add up to a how you can
Live BETTER for LESS in Panama!

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.