What does it cost to live in Boquete or Volcan? That’s the question I get asked most often. And it’s the most important question you need the answer to before you make the decision to move offshore.
I’ve been tracking our living expenses since moving to Boquete, so I thought I’d share them to give you a realistic picture of what it costs to live in Boquete.
There are many areas in Panama where you can live for much less. You’ll pay much more if you live near Coronado or Panama City.
Housing is usually your biggest expense, but it can be affordable in Boquete.
In Boquete, like all other places, your cost “depends” on your lifestyle. If you want to live in Valle Escondido or any of the other gated communities around Boquete, your costs will be much higher than other areas.
You can rent a house for $500 a month or spend $3000 a month.
Boquete, like all areas, has a huge variety. Only you can determine if the price you are willing to pay is in an area you like.
I recommend renting for at least 6-12 months before buying anything. That’s the only way you can get to know an area.
Many become a renter for the rest of their lives once they move offshore. It gives you a lot more flexibility. Rent is so affordable it really does not make a lot of sense to buy.
From 2010 to 2012, we paid $600 per month 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. We could pay more.. but why? We have everything we need at an affordable price. That same house rents for $750 in 2023.
Water and basic internet were included in our rent. Keep in mind, water is only $100 PER YEAR in Boquete. We opted to increase our internet speed for an additional $50 per month.
The house came furnished with a sofa, two chairs, an old TV, two queen size beds, dining room table & chairs, sheets, towels, pots & pans, dishes, glasses, silverware. It also came with a stackable washer and dryer.
The house was decorated in beige or beige, so I have purchased a few things to give it some color and personality.
We’re 10 minutes from downtown Boquete and away from the noise of town.
About 18 months after moving to Panama, I bought the house we had been renting.
After buying the house, we had to pay our own electric bill. Once we converted the dryer to gas, our electric bill was rarely more than $25 a month.
Our neighbor, who has an identical property, has an electric dryer and their electric bill is $50 per month.
In Boquete, you don’t need heating or air conditioning so that’s a huge savings on your electric bill!
Shortly after buying the house, fiber options became available on our street. I paid $42 a month for $500Mbps.
Before I had fiber, satellite internet for 10mbps was $135.
There will be trade-offs. The area where I live is magical. The views are spectacular. The birds sing all day. It’s private, yet I have neighbors not far away. When I rented the house, I decided I’d rather deal with slower internet speeds, pay more for internet, and keep this setting.
Everyone has to decide what’s most important to them. But when you’re looking for a house.
If you eat out a lot, it will increase your costs unless you eat at a Panamanian restaurant, then it may not. You can get a good meal at a Panamanian restaurant for $4-$5 per person. It’s hardly worth it to cook at home at those prices.
I love the food at The Garden restaurant in Alto Boquete – they have daily specials for $7 to $10 a meal. Or, you can go to a more “high end” restaurant and pay $20++ per meal. You have choices in Boquete!
I’ve been eating out a lot more since moving to Boquete. Part of it was to explore all the restaurant choices. (There are many) And eating out is a great way to meet new people.
I buy most of the produce at the Mercado (farmers market). The prices are much cheaper than in the United States and the quality is better too. For example, I recently bought two medium-sized 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.
We spend $500 – $600 per month on food, including eating out. I could reduce that cost if I ate out less.
We don’t have a landline so $0 expense there. When I first came to Panama, I bought a $15 Panama cell phone and I used it every time I visited. When I finally moved here, I got my US cell phone unlocked then took the SIM card out of my Panama phone and put it in my smartphone.
My monthly cell phone bill is $35 and includes unlimited talking and texting. When I travel outside of Panama, my cell phone works fine with no additional charge for roaming.
Most people in Panama use Whatsapp. You’ll need WiFi, then it’s free to make calls and receive texts.
Panama cell phone plans are much more affordable than what I was paying in the United States.
I also use Skype to make calls to friends and family worldwide at $0 expense. I got a dedicated Skype number so anyone calls that number and it rings at my house in Panama.
SHIPPING AND POSTAGE
Panama does not have mail delivery service to your house. You will need to work with a Panama mail-forwarding company to get packages sent to Panama.
The mail forwarding company I use does not have a monthly fee. I pay $3 a pound when I receive a package from Amazon or other companies.
I can order from Amazon.com, Walmart, Ebay, .. any website or catalog then get the product delivered to Boquete.
If you shop online a lot, this can really add up. You can buy most things you need in Panama so you can avoid the shipping fees.
For in-country deliveries, I use Fletes Chavales. I can take a package or letter to them for delivery to another Feletes Cheveles office anywhere in Panama. The cost varies depending on what you are shipping. For a large legal size envelope to go to my attorney in Panama City, it is $1.50
We sold two cars when we left the United States. We replaced them with one used car in Panama.
So that’s a 50% savings in transportation costs.
We bought a 2008 Kia with 40,000 km for $10,500. We used a car broker to help us find a car and handle all the paperwork. There was $0 cost to us for his services, the seller paid the car broker.
Now, in 2023, I’m on my fourth car in Panama, a 2020 Hyundai Sante Fe.
Gas is more expensive in Panama, currently about $1.10 a liter, but you drive less so the net cost is a big savings. We can get just about anything we need in Boquete. But I visit David about once a month to go to PriceSmart (like Sam’s or Costco) and other shopping areas. David is 45 minutes away, and it’s so HOT there I avoid it.
We spend about $40 a month on gasoline
Auto insurance was $600 a year for the maximum coverage.
It is $15-$20 for the doctor’s visit without insurance.
I was taken to the emergency room at Hospital Chiriqui. It was $44.80! (that’s not a misprint)
I have international health insurance, which costs $4000 a year. It covers me at just about any hospital or doctor in the world. My husband, now deceased, had Panama insurance, which was $102 a month.
When my international health insurance comes up for renewal, I will switch to Panama only. I can always buy travel insurance when I travel, but there is no need to pay for something I don’t use.
Healthcare costs are a HUGE savings over what it would cost in the United States.
Since we only moved to Panama with two suitcases each and a cat, we bought some things that were a one-time purchase. They were not necessities but creature comforts.
We bought a 42” flat screen TV to replace the big box with our furnished house. $500 Two computer desks for $50 each. A Printer. A nice hammock for the back porch and a few other things for the house to make it more homey.
There are little things that happen once in a while that add up, so you need a MISC column in your budget.
Here’s how my expenses break down:
|Food (includes eating out & pet food) $600
|Utilities (Electric, water, Trash) $65
|Transportation (gas and maintenance) $140
|Medical (one person $102 insurance and meds) $120
|Shipping & Postage $20
|Misc ( travel, household goods, etc) $200
Of course, your budget will vary if you spend more or less than $750 for rent.
Sometimes, in Boquete or Volcan, utilities like electricity, water, internet, and trash are included in your rent!
I did not include a gardener in the budget. A gardener is usually included in your rent, but if not, budget $30 once or twice a month for a gardener.
How to Reduce Your Living Expenses…
You can reduce your living expenses if you get a more affordable rental, if don’t own a car, if you don’t have pets, if you only eat out at Panamanian restaurants, avoid happy hours at restaurants, if you don’t shop on Amazon, and if you don’t plan annual international trips.
Yes, You Can Live for Less in Panama
My neighbor lives comfortably on $1400 a month Social Security. But I know people who live on much more.