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.
Housing is usually your biggest expense, but it does not have to be in Panama.
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.
Bananas are free… I get them on my property.
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.
It’s only $12 for a general doctor visit and about $30 – $40 for a specialist. With these kind of prices, some people decide to self-insure. But I have international health insurance.
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||$450|
|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 Haircare, weekly massage, Mani-Pedi, Misc||$380|
|TOTAL||$1395 ($16,740 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 less than $2,000 a month (keep in mind that your internet, electricity, gardener, water and cable TV are usually included in your rent!). 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.
Sandy Pompey says
Hi Jackie, Can you give me more info about the international insurance? How long can you be in the USA and still have this coverage? Do you have a contact for this company? I plan to be traveling quite a bit but still have a base in Panama and Florida.
Jackie Lange says
You cannot be in the United States (or your home country) more than 6 months in one calendar year.
Bev Bauer says
Hi Jackie, which health insurance company are you using?
Rick Llewelyn says
You mentioned “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.”
Can you share which insurance company that is with. What would the cost be for a couple in their mid to late 60’s be the same, I’m assuming per person and are there any age limitations, which I have read about for health insurance in Panama. At $1900 a year, I’m ready to move now :)
Jackie Lange says
ImGlobal.com health insurance
It seems all comments are from:couples. What might life be for a single man?
Jackie Lange says
At least half the expats are single. Plenty of single men and single women. You can see some single people’s comments at https://www.youtube.com/user/PanamaRelocationTour
Hi Jackie, I dont know if this post will reach you but if it will please advise. I am ready to move to Panama in a a month or so and would like your advise. I am a single man in his 50s very healthy and an information technology specialist over 18 years experience. I dont need much but I like to have comfortable living conditions. I dont mean 3 bedroom house… I can live in a 1 bedroom or studio as long as have all amenities included including high speed internet gym and nearby food and transportation. I dont have much savings and i dont expect a large social security when i get to that age but hope enough to start. i can bring my car to the country if thats an option. I would like to get residency before arrival so I dont have to worry about keep going out and back as tourist. also hope to find a Job in my profession. I read that you can open a business for $5000 and have $5000 in the bank and that will get you a residency. I could pay for a few years of rent (if it is reasonable like 600/mo and hope that could grow my IT support business or just work for other companies in the same time that need that kind of professional employee. I would much appreciate your advise.