What does it cost to live in Boquete? 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.
We’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. If you live near Coronado or Panama City, you’ll pay much more.
This is usually your biggest expense but it does not have to be 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 $400 a month or spend $3000 a month. Last year I saw a house advertised for $200 per month.
A friend recently bought a 3 bedroom house for $35,000 about 15 minutes from Boquete. Another friend bought a house in Valle Escondido for $385,000 and another friend bought a house in Santa Lucia for $120,000…. or you can pay $1,000,000’s.
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 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 become a renter for the rest of their life 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.
We pay $600 per month for a fully furnished 2 bedroom, 2 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.
Water and basic cable TV are included in our rent. Keep in mind, water is only $55 PER YEAR in Boquete. We opted for additional movie channels for an extra $12 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.
We pay our own electric bill. Because our dryer is electric instead of gas, it increases our utility costs a bit. Our average electric bill is $50 per month.
If we hung our clothes outside to dry more often, we could reduce our electric bill.
Our neighbor, who has an identical property, has a gas dryer and their electric bill is only $35 per month.
In Boquete, you don’t need heating or air conditioning so that’s a huge savings!
This is one of our biggest expenses. When I rented the house, I asked if it had high speed internet available. They said yes, but later I found out that 2-3 MB is about as fast as you can get in this area… and I pay $135 a month for the privilege. OUCH!
Because I do a lot of work on the internet, I’m stuck with this expense unless I move.
We could move to an areas serviced by Cable Onda, to get 7-10 MB for $35 per month.
There are trade-offs. The area where I live in magical. The views are spectacular. The birds sing all day. It’s private, yet I have neighbors not far away. 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 remember this…
Do you have high speed internet is NOT the right question to ask, you need to find out who the internet service provider is in Boquete.
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 $3- $5 per person. It’s hardly worth it to cook at home with those prices.
I love the fish tacos at Big Daddy’s – they are $8.50 for two tacos and it includes rice and beans. The Rock is about $10-$15 per meal. Or I can go to The Orchid for $3 a meal.
We’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 produce at the Mercado (farmers market). The prices are much cheaper than the United States and the quality is better too. For example, I recently bought 2 medium size 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 land line 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 Iphone unlocked then took the SIM card out of my Panama phone and put it in my iPhone.
I don’t have a monthly calling plan. Instead, I add $15 of minutes as I need it. When the minutes get low, I add some more. They sell little cards all over town with $5, $10, or $15 in minutes. I just buy what I need when I need it.
I don’t need a data roaming plan since there is WiFi in many areas, I use that. However, I can add data roaming for 1 day or 1 week, when I need it just by punching in a code on my iphone.
This is much better than an expensive monthly contract and a big savings! I was paying well over $120 a month for just my cell phone in the USA and about the same for a land line.
I use Skype to make calls to friends and family all over the world at $0 expense. I got a dedicated Skype number so anyone call dial that number and it rings at my house in Panama. That’s how people call me to sign up for the Panama Relocation Tours and I can use Skype to call them.
I have Magic Jack too but it is so unreliable I stopped using it.
SHIPPING AND POSTAGE
Panama does not have mail delivery service to your house. You either need to get a post office box or use a private company.
I signed up with Airbox Express in Boquete. It’s free the first year then $10 a year after that. They give you several addresses in Florida where you can have packages or mail shipped to then it is forwarded to Boquete. They send an email and call when a package arrives.
I can order from Amazon.com, Ebay, .. any web site or catalog then get the product delivered to Boquete. I pay a small shipping fee and a customs fee if the price of the product is over $50.
Airbox Express can also be used to ship packages to friends and family or they can ship to me.
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, Keith Wolford, to help us find a car and take care of all the paperwork. There was $0 cost to us for his services, the seller pays the car broker.
Gas is more expensive in Panama but you drive less so the net cost is a big savings. We can get just about anything we need in Boquete. But we go to 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 in gasoline
Auto insurance was $600 a year for the maximum liability coverage.
It was $10 for the doctor visit including the drugs for a sinus infection I got shortly after we moved to Panama
I was taken to the emergency room at Hospital Chiriqui. It was $44.80! (that’s not a misprint)
Then I bought international health insurance for $2100 per year. It covers me at just about any hospital or doctor in the world.
My husband got the local MSPanama insurance for $70 a month. It covers him in Panama only.
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.
Health care costs is 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 are a one time purchase. They were not necessities but creature comforts.
We bought a 42” flat screen TV to replace the big box that came 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.
My husband is the shopper in the family. He can’t leave the Dollar store without a few bags of “stuff”
There is always something going on in Boquete. The annual Boquete Blues and Jazz Festival is $20 a person for 3 days of incredible music.
There are little things that happen once in awhile that add up so you need a MISC column in your budget.
Here’s how our expenses break down:
|Utilities & Cable TV||
|Postage and Shipping||
Yes, You Can Live for Less in Panama
Our neighbor lives comfortably on $1500 a month Social Security. But I know people who live on much less and some who need much more.